As much as we might like it to be otherwise, being a good writer – even being a great writer – generally isn’t enough to become a successful writer. And in this day and age, when the first instinct of many people is to Google something or someone in order to know more about them, if you aren’t on those first few pages of results, you might as well not exist at all. Unless other people are already talking about you and your writing, having a searchable platform is one of the keys to this.
Noah Webster has a lot to answer for. A prolific American writer and editor, he was also dedicated to the reformation of English spelling. He compiled several dictionaries over his lifetime, including spellings that more closely matched how the words were pronounced instead of the traditional compositions. In most cases, he didn’t originate these revised spellings but he was responsible for popularising them and many of the “reformed” spellings gradually became standard throughout the United States, the reason we now have significant differences between British English and American English.
Without any academic study to back it up, I have often thought that Americans frequently do things simply to be different from the British and in reading up about Webster, I discovered this to be true in relation to his spelling changes. Yet again, we discover the US is the source of a bloody annoying and unnecessary set of circumstances.
Some of his revised spellings didn’t catch on. If they had, I beleev wimmin (and men) would be spewing forth a steddy and hainous korus of grotesk syllables from their tungs, creating a nightmar for the masheen I’m now typing on. (The Spell Checker is going to have a field day with that sentence.)
As much as I would clearly like to, we’re not going to be able to wind back the changes that did catch on. But what we writers and editors should do is make sure that when we edit, we pick one variation of English and stick to it. This will largely be guided by the location of the primary audience.
There are lots of differences between British English and American English, far too many to go into here. But here are a few highlights to help begin the process and ensure consistency.
What a strange, strange book this is! It suffers from many problems but the biggest is that the blurb in no way resembles what it ends up being about.
It opens in a medical clinic where Martin Blom wakes up to people telling him he’s been shot in the head and he is now blind. His neurosurgeon tells him that one of the potential complications is hallucinations as his brain adjusts to its inability to see. Then one evening as he’s wandering through the gardens of the clinic, Martin realises he can see in the dark. He’s completely blind during the day but the darker it gets, the better his eyesight is.
This is where the book’s first problem becomes obvious. The neurosurgeon has told him that he might hallucinate but Martin is convinced that what he’s seeing is real. So the reader is torn between wanting to believe and struggling to. The unreliability of the narrator is a constant concern. And when Martin’s paranoia kicks in and he starts to believe he’s actually part of a high-level experiment, you really don’t know what to think.
Why is it so hard to write a good ending? Why do we struggle and agonise and draft and redraft and throw it all away to start again, usually more than once? I wish I had a gloriously psychological answer that delves into how writers don’t want to let go of the worlds and characters they have spent so much time immersed in and therefore subconsciously sabotage themselves. Instead, I have the opposite – a horribly simplistic reason that won’t make any writer feel any better or any more capable of writing a good ending.
So what is it? Why, regardless of whether we are writing a poem, a short story, an article, non-fiction or a novel, do we struggle to write good endings? Well, it all comes down to this: it’s hard!
Told you it was simple. Frustratingly, annoyingly, head-scratchingly, solution-defyingly simple.
If you’ve ever read a poem, a short story, an article or a book or seen a play, a photograph or a painting so evocative that you thought, “This should be a movie,” then you’ll know it’s often the first step towards the creation of something new and wonderful yet familiar and comfortable. Regardless of where the idea begins and where it ends up, after that first step there are several more that will help ensure that when using the source material of others, you do so with honesty and respect.
Now that the self-publishing of ebooks (electronic books) and pbooks (physical books) is so easy, many writers choose to distribute both instead of just focusing on one. There are similarities in the preparation processes for both but there are also differences. Knowing them in advance instead of discovering them along the way can help minimise the time it takes to achieve publication.
I had high hopes for this book. A straight-laced woman looking for her artsy, younger, pregnant and unmarried sister after she is reported missing by her landlord. And the longer I read, the more certain I was that the end must be mind-blowing because the build-up took forever. But when it came, I realised that the author had been jerking me around, using every writer’s trick in the book, just to let me down with a mediocre ending, a not particularly complex bad guy and a cliffhanger that, to be honest, I could see coming from a mile away.
Beatrice lives in New York, is successful in an unimportant job and catalogues everything in her life according to Pantone colours (although she really only needs one – beige). She’s engaged to Todd but clearly doesn’t love him – he’s just a safe option. Tess, the missing sister, is a student at an art college in London but she’s been forced to take a sabbatical by her tutor who is also her married lover and doesn’t want his bosses to find out he’s been sexing up students. She’s just weeks away from giving birth when Beatrice receives a call from her mother telling her that her sister has gone missing.