Well, That’s Embarrassing…

Since this is my first foray into self-publishing, I’ve naturally been doing a lot of research on the subject. I’ve read everything from articles to make the details of my story more believable–like metallurgy and sword fighting, to advice on things that affect the look of the finished product–such as how to not make a cover that will make people’s eyes bleed, and how to format a document for conversion to an e-book. [Also to prevent eye bleed.]

Admittedly, I overlooked one huge problem, and I did not realize it until it was almost too late!

Growing up, English classes were always easy “A”s for me. I seemed to intuitively know when things were correct, even if I did not know why they were.  In ninth grade I had an English teacher that made us submit short stories, then proceeded to tear mine apart because I did not write the dialogue correctly. She then offered to tutor me in how to do it the right way, so I stayed after class that day and she showed me how.

Obviously after that incident, I thought the way she showed me was correct–seeing as how she was an English teacher and all that, so I didn’t think much of it. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and I come across a thread on a writing forum by chance where someone was asking for help with dialogue that had a ton of comments on it. I stroll in, and see that the punctuation looks correct to me. I’m surprised there are so many comments on something correct, so I scroll down, and…

Tell me I’m wrong will you?! Oh wait… I am. Dammit!

I was wrong. Oh, how wrong I was.

Initially I thought maybe the commenters were wrong, but eventually someone [who turned out to be a professional editor that lurked around the forums] brought up an ancient* tome called The Chicago Manual of Style. Apparently this book is the holy grail of editing. If your punctuation does not follow those guidelines, you will: A.) Waste your money hiring an editor, and B.) Feel like a complete idiot when they laugh your manuscript all the way back to you.

I was fortunate in that I found this out shortly after finishing my second draft of volume one in the Atlantis series, so I got to crawl back through it again and fix constant, silly little punctuation errors** that made me look like a twit. It took about a week to finish, and it was, well, tedious. Writing is a labor of love, but that part was like trying to count grains of sand; I was so happy to be done! It was worth it though, because no one wants to release an inferior product. The world of self-publishing hates authors who don’t take the time to do little things like self-edit, and spellcheck themselves.

I thought it was strange that self-published authors seemed to come down extra hard on other self-published authors, but over time I realized that non-serious e-books make people less likely to pick up a good one, and hurts the industry. It’s important that everyone puts their best foot forward, and it’s a huge responsibility. I feel it is especially important for me, since the medium I am working in is not a common one, and the audience I am focusing on will tend to view my work as inferior as soon as they learn it is domestic. [But, if anyone knows me, I always pick the past of most resistance!]

I read a lot of established, self-published authors’ experiences in my journey to better myself and my writing. One of the most important resources they provided were links that they found helpful. In case any budding authors stumble upon this blog while looking for punctuation help, here are some links I found that were amazingly useful references when it came down to editing my dialogue and punctuation.

| Purdue OWL: Punctuation | LitReactor: Talk it Out | Crayne: Dialogue [PDF] | The Punctuation Guide |

The most important advice is this though:

* Ancient is dramatically relative.
** Like replacing all the dialogue dashes with em dashes because I thought regular dashes were em dashes. U+2014… *headdesk*

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