If you're a writer, you've seen the writer's getaway cabin in the woods, tucked in the most romantic isolation. Or you've heard the story of J. K. Rowling writing Harry Potter in the coffee shop down the street. But the nuts and bolts of writing are FAR less romantic.
Most of us have a less than romantic space to write, maybe in bed with our laptop, at the kitchen table or on Notepad at work. We might spend years working on a manuscript, and in the end what counts the most isn't our lovely scenes, exciting characters or lofty plots.
Here's the dirty little secret few professional writers want to talk about: the most important thing a writer needs is a superior grasp of grammar and sentence structure.
Now, a whole lot of new writers are going to roll their eyes and spout a cliche right now: "That's what editors are for."
But can you afford to pay that editor?
That level of editing is very time consuming and expensive. Editing at that level can cost upwards of $5 per page (500 words). Even if you find an independent editor who will edit your grammar for $1 per page, it will take 2 or 3 passes to get all the corrections done.
Some editors charge $1 per error found.
At a certain skill level that's a bargain. Until then it's a nightmare.
A traditional publisher, or (perish the thought) an agent, will read your manuscript up to the first grammatical error and stop. If that's in the first sentence, all your work after that is for nothing. If your lucky, they won't tweet your name and some disparaging remark to their colleagues. (Yes, this has happened.)
"Well, I'll self-publish my book," a budding author might reply.
Most readers (I'm one) will sample an e-book and not buy it if there are grammatical errors in the sample. Readers with a trollish bent will leave you a nasty 1 star "OMG, this writer sucks!" review. (I know, I've got some.) Many a writer has been shocked to get so many 1 star reviews on sites like Amazon or Goodreads by reader-trolls that they've snapped and lashed out at their tormentors. Flame wars have resulted, people get their feelings deeply hurt, and sometimes things spill over into the real world. (This is a subject for another post.)
So it's in every writer's best interest to work on this skill set, until they have it honed as sharp as a razor. Until then, use your grammar checker until it becomes your best friend. It won't find all the errors in a manuscript, but I learned a heck of a lot from mine.
If nothing else it will keep you from getting remarks like I got from Amazon Vine Reviewers: "Unfortunately, there are several spelling errors and grammatical mistakes that detract from my enjoyment. It's just easier to read an error-free story - you don't get pulled out of the plot and back to reality if the writing is pristine."
No one is ever perfect, and as many times as I've revised this short post, I know there are still errors in it.
Warning: This blog (but not, I hope, this series of posts) contains subject matter that other's might find offensive as well as blog posts that have snarky language. Feel free to roll your eyes and click away from posts that offend you. The opinions expressed here were only valid on the day of posting, after that I've probably forgotten what I posted. I think the eye-roll emoji is either ::-( or 88-(, I no doubt deserve it if you leave one in the comments.