Let’s take a look at some of the basics of writing, boys and girls.
The first thing I want to mention today is the proper use of punctuation. Specifically, apostrophes. You know, those things that look like ‘ …that thing. There are two primary purposes for an apostrophe. The first is to take the place of other letters in a contraction. Examples include it’s, where the apostrophe takes the pace of the i in what would have been the word is. Instead of it is, the apostrophe jumps in and turns two words into one. It’s.
The second primary function of the apostrophe is to denote possession. By putting an apostrophe at the end of a noun, usually (but not exclusively) people’s names. (See what I did, there?) Possession can be tricky, though. To use the possessive for an object, there is no apostrophe at all. It’s possession, and is its own exception to the rule. The first in that sentence, with the apostrophe, is a contraction, like we discussed before. The second, without the apostrophe, is possessive. That’s usually the exception to the rule, though.
One thing an apostrophe is never EVER used for is a plural indicative. Never, EVER, use an apostrophe with an S at the end of a word that you intend to make plural. It’s just wrong. Don’t do it. EVER. For example, the plural for the word photo is photos. No apostrophe. Simply ask yourself the question: Is it a contraction (where two words are mashed together removing one or more letters) or is it a possessive? If the answer is “No. It’s plural.” you know not to use it.
Like I said, it’s tricky sometimes. But if you want to be taken seriously as an author, write with an eye toward getting it right.
Commas are also pretty important. They break up sentences in some pretty important ways.
“I enjoy eating my children and my pets.”
“I enjoy eating, my children, and my pets.”
Use commas. Don’t be a cannibalistic monster.
Next, let’s look at perspectives. The first person perspective is when you write something as if, well, as if YOU’RE telling a story, usually in the past tense. One of the best books ever written is Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” If you haven’t read it, you should. That book is written in the first person, from the point of view of the Indian, as if he’s telling you the story directly. “I did this,” or “I saw that.” The last line of the book is “I been away a long time.”
The first person can be a powerful tool in a successful writer’s arsenal, but it has to be done right. If not, a story comes across like “Fun with Dick and Jane.” Dick threw the ball. Jane bought a dress. See Spot run. Done wrong, the first person can ruin what might have otherwise been a pretty good story.
In second person perspective, You’re still doing the talking, but you’re addressing somebody directly, like I did just now. It’s when you’re telling somebody something in the here and now, in the present tense. “Class, you need to take your seats, because this lesson is going to be very important.” Again, it can be effective, mostly if you’re writing a self-help book.
The third party perspective is written with the author as a detached observer, never referring to him/herself directly. The most widely used perspective, the third person is about the characters in the story. Using the third person allows the writer complete objectivity and freedom to tell the whole story. In either the first or second person, the author has a personal investment in what’s going on. In the third person, the writer isn’t personally attached, and can explore every nuance of the story impartially, allowing the reader to form his or her own opinion.
If you write something (book, poem, blog, anything) starting off in the first person, be sure to stick with it. Same thing with tenses. If you start off in the present tense, don’t switch to past tense mid-stream. If you switch from “I’m doing this” to “She did that” in the middle of a paragraph, you might come across looking like a clueless eejit with a serious case of MPD.
Equally important, if not more so, is making sure that your editors and publishers have a grasp on these basic fundamentals. Even if you don’t catch all the mistakes, it’s up to your editor, and ultimately, your publisher to catch every single one. If they’ve demonstrated time and time again that they can’t even get the basics right, you might want to keep looking until you find ones that can.
Good luck, and have fun.