Archive for category An Individual Will

Parenthetically speaking.

Consider this.

Would it really be quite decent (or prudent) to tell her he was dead?

The above sentence is from my novel. What we’re interested in here is the use of parenthesis or brackets, which I’m told I over-use, and which (I’m told) adds difficulty for the reader.

So – consider the following:

Would it really be quite decent (or prudent) to tell her he was dead?
Would it really be quite decent – or prudent – to tell her he was dead?
Would it really be quite decent, or prudent, to tell her he was dead?
Would it really be quite decent or prudent to tell her he was dead?

The question is: can and does the “average” reader mark the difference, appreciate the distinction? Or does the appearance of an “unfamiliar” punctuation mark (the brackets) simply act as a distraction, a stumbling block, a jagged impediment?

Consider, too, the following:

My hair is shoulder-length and mousy and (outside the private domain) invariably worn tied or clipped back. I had been a (the) DCI in Amberton for two and half years, having briefly been a DI in the Met. Amberton has a population of eighty thousand or so souls and a slower pace of life than the capital. Friends and colleagues had assumed (quite correctly) that I had craved a quiet (or quieter) life. I had, indeed, begun to find London brittle and dispiriting.

Here it is again with the parenthesis replaced with dashes:

My hair is shoulder-length and mousy and – outside the private domain – invariably worn tied or clipped back. I had been a – the – DCI in Amberton for two and half years, having briefly been a DI in the Met. Amberton has a population of eighty thousand or so souls and a slower pace of life than the capital. Friends and colleagues had assumed – quite correctly – that I had craved a quiet – or quieter – life. I had, indeed, begun to find London brittle and dispiriting.

To me, there is something of the theatrical aside to the parenthetic content, a change of tone, an extra thought – some of which might survive with the use of dashes, though it is distinctly weakened. With merely commas or no punctuation at all, this (the tone change, the extra thought) is entirely lost, and the meaning (not so subtly) changed.

Here it is again with the dashes stripped out and not replaced:

My hair is shoulder-length and mousy and outside the private domain invariably worn tied or clipped back. I had been a, the, DCI in Amberton for two and half years, having briefly been a DI in the Met. Amberton has a population of eighty thousand or so souls and a slower pace of life than the capital. Friends and colleagues had assumed quite correctly that I had craved a quiet or quieter life. I had, indeed, begun to find London brittle and dispiriting.

It seems to me a lot of tone and voice is lost in the above if one compares it with its parenthetic counterpart.

But… perhaps all this sounds rather too precious, and one should simply go with reader feedback. In this word-processing, digital age, these things are easily changed. It would take very little in the way of effort to swap out the parenthesis for dashes and/or commas, and I could later argue that brackets – as a punctuation – are just too visible for the “average” reader, too much of a surprise. They’re not used to seeing it, I would say regretfully, and don’t quite understand why it’s there, nor how they should read it. Nuance, I would add snarkily, must be sacrificed on the altar of marketability.

I worry about this, of course. I fear the ability to read generally has been (is being) degraded, that poetry and its cousin, style, are now regarded with suspicion and mistrust. Will I, then, be searching and replacing my brackets? No (actually), I think not. There are so many other reasons for the novel to fail (in terms of the market), its subject matter for a start. The “average” reader is not going to be clamouring for my book anyway, parenthesis or not. And there’s surely something to be said for authorial integrity, for an artistic rather than a mercantile decision.

You can be sure, though, I’ll have it in mind for my next novel (partially built and in abeyance), which will be written third-person (the “average” reader is more used to this) and unburdened with “eccentric” punctuation.

I’ll end on this:

While I was sleeping in Italy, I heard news from overseas – England to be precise – that affected me emotionally and made me want to write a poem in protest.

Or:

As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.

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An Individual Will.

AIWCover2Well, I’ve taken the plunge, pushed the button, and effectively given up on the traditional publishing route. My novel, after much formatting (to meet the requirements of the unattractively named Meatgrinder software) has been published via, or on, Smashwords, and can be found here: http://ow.ly/CHe00; and here: http://ow.ly/CHdgt.

I confess I’m struggling to get to grips with Twitter. I had a young chap explain hashtags to me recently, but we weren’t able to post links to the very #hashtag of the site where I’d published my novel, which seems odd. Then again, I have a less than perfect understanding of what I’m doing web-presence-wise. I was unable to put the image of of my book in the side widget of this blog. The URL to the image disappears when I hit Save. Assume I’m doing something wrong.

I’ll try again later, and persevere with Twitter, though I do find it tiresome. One can spend more time social networking than actually writing, though perhaps it becomes straightforward and rather less time-consuming when one gets used to it. It’s an odd thing, though. Lots of voices engaged in the business of thinking up ever more inventive ways to to be heard above the crowd. Easy in the engagement of this, I shouldn’t wonder, to lose track of why one wanted to be heard in the first place. Always assuming there is a reason. Perhaps it’s just a baby crying – no more complicated than that. One wants to be heard because one is here, and not being heard is being ignored. How awful the boiling down is.

Here I am, then, with my hand up, hoping you’ll pick me.

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Indie Publishing.

I’m contemplating doing something I would have considered an admission of failure not so very long ago – that is, publishing directly online (via Smashwords). Indie publishing is how they describe it. I’ve written my interview (though not yet published it), come up with a (simple) cover, and have almost finished preparing the manuscript for the charmlessly named Meatgrinder, the software process that takes a Word document and turns it into various ebook formats for distribution. I’m really rather enjoying the process.

I’ve designed the cover myself, and kept it simple (you might say it shows). Not sure if one needs a precise pixel count when it comes to height and width. I’ll have to read – re-read again if you follow my drift – the Smashwords style guide. Seriously, you do need to read it thoroughly – short-cutting will just cause you pain. If you’re going to use an image/photo for your book cover, don’t just download an image from the internet and assume it’s okay to use it (no matter how commonplace or generic it seems). You might find yourself being sued later, usually at the point when you’ve become successful enough to make it worth doing. Use one of your own, or edit one that’s free of copyright; creative commons, I believe it’s called.

Anyway, I want to reach the point where I’m ready to push the button, and then stand over it, finger poised…

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