February 6, 2020

Vocabulary Time Again…

Holy crap this is post #600 here on the ranty blog. Six. Hundred. Take that, some other blog with less posts.
Anyway, we’re overdue to discuss that most favorite of topics… spelling. I know it seems silly that I keep revisiting this again and again.  But there’s a reason for it–I’ve simply got to have a solid vocabulary if I want to be a writer. I need to know what words mean. I have to know how to spell them. I have to be able to tell them apart.
Over the course of my writing career, I’ve talked with lots of editors, a couple of agents, and a double-handful of directors for screenwriting contests.  Pretty much across the board, they named spelling as the most common mistake they saw. Not subject matter. Not formatting. Spelling was the problem they saw again and again and again.
Which is why I tend to bring it up here at least once a year. If I’m spelling and using words correctly, I’ve just eliminated the most common problem from my manuscript. Seriously, think how many people that puts me ahead of in the selection process.
Check out this little list of words… and the words they were supposed to be. They’re from assorted books and articles I’ve stumbled across. Things that we can consider published (I’m not going to give anyone crap for typos in a tweet). The important thing is all of these are from people claiming to be professional writers.
going or gong
canon orcannon
fair or fare
right or rite
taking ortalking
possible orposable
root or route
milk toast or milquetoast
Personally, I think certain technologies have made spelling a hard problem for some folks to acknowledge. If you’ve been following the ranty blog for a while, you might remember me using this sentence a few times before…
Innodor two kell a vampire yew most half a would steak.
While the first instinct is to say pretty much every word in that sentence is spelled wrong, the truth is—like the list above—none of them are.  Oh, most of them aren’t the right word, yeah, but they’re all spelled correctly.
That’s what I’m talking about with technology. I ran this post through a spellchecker and it leaped right over that sentence. Because there aren’t any spelling mistakes in it. And so technology leads a lot of people to believe they’re much better spellers than they really are.
If I don’t know the difference between they’retheir, and there, I’m going to have a tough time as a writer. Same thing with its and it’s.  If I think I know what anathema means (deadly poison, right?), but never bother to actually learn what it means (something I really dislike), odd are I’ll be using it wrong a lot. 
And again, when I make these mistakes, my spellchecker’s still going to tell me my manuscript is fine. So some folks who are really awful at spelling never improve.  They see no need to. After all, the computer’s got them covered and it told them all their words were correct.
That kinda blind faith is when things can get ridicules. Sometimes the spelling will be so off on a word the spellchecker flails for a second and throws out its best guess. And if I don’t know how to spell or what words really mean, I’ll probably just accept whatever the computer tells me. 
Like up above. I meant ridiculous at the top of that last paragraph, typed out radekulos to make my point, and the computer thought the best match was ridicules. Because it doesn’t know what I’m actually trying for. I’ve mentioned once or thrice the manuscript I saw where the writer was trying for corpulent but assumed the spellchecker had made the right choice when it gave him corporeal.
I need to be able to spell. I need to understand the words I’m spelling. I can’t depend on my computer to do it for me because at the end of the day, computers are idiots. And idiots make lousy writing partners.
Next time… it’s Valentine’s Day, so let’s talk about what you’ve got on under there.
Until then… go write.
August 29, 2019 / 1 Comment

Software Update

Just a quick post this week. Sorry. I’m juggling final edits on one book and really picking up momentum on another

I got a random question on Twitter the other day, and while I answered it there I thought it was worth bringing it up here, too. Somebody wanted to know what writing software I use, and also (question part B) did I think it was possible to write a book using Microsoft Word.
The answer to this is… well, sure. Of course it is. I write in Word. I’m writing this in Word right now before I transfer it onto the ranty blog. I think everything of mine you’ve ever read was written in Word.

The real issue here is this is like asking if I like ball point pens or rollerball or quills. Everybody has their own preference, for their own reasons, but it doesn’t really matter because we all understand the pen is just a tool. What matters is the manuscript at the end of the process. And seriously—are you going to try to write a novel with a goose quill? Really? Of course you’re not. Everybody knows peacock feathers hold a point better. Plus, you look much more authorly with that big plume waving back and forth while you write.

Yeah, I use Word.  But you know what? I actually wrote a lot of Paradox Bound on yellow pads in longhand. With a pen. In a coffeeshop. Because at the time, that’s what was working for me. It felt good. It let me hit my word count every day.
I know a lot of other authors who use Word. And there’s the free knockoff version, Open Office.  But I also know some who use a program called Scrivener that you may have heard of. It’s got a lot more bells and whistles than I like, but that’s just me–I know a bunch of folks who swear by it. Weird as it may sound, I know a couple screenwriters who actually wrote books in Final Draft, just because it was familiar to them and comfortable to work in. Heck, I know one writer who actually wrote her first few books on her Blackberry during her downtime at work.

Because that’s what all of this comes down to in the end. What I’m comfortable with. What’s going to let me write with the least amount of distractions. Whatever it is… that’s the correct writing program for me to use. Maybe it’s something with dozens and dozens of features. Maybe it’s something very stripped down and basic. Hell… maybe it’s something so ancient you have to keep an old computer just so you can run it.

Or maybe it’s just a pen and legal pad.

Oh, and hey, speaking of writing, did you know that my book Dead Moon is now available as an ebook for your reading pleasure. It’s been an Audible exclusive for the past six months, but that time has passed and now those of you who prefer reading to listening can enjoy the full horror of being hunted by zombies on the Moon. So… go enjoy it.

Next time, I want to get real for a few minutes.

Until than, go write.