Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dancing the Limbo


By Keith N Fisher

Willie had held down his job at the Pretty Pelican Bar and Grill, which did not have a grill, for almost three weeks. For Willie, this was a personal employment record.

I changed the names, but I found those two sentences at the beginning of a novel written by my favorite nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, a Pulitzer Prize winner. This writer claims to have been persuaded to write fiction by an editor from a national publishing house.

Now, I’m not an expert, attested to by the fact I’m not published, but I had trouble reading that first sentence. I think the commas saved the sentence grammatically, but it raised some questions in my mind.

Why did the bar not have a grill for three weeks? How could they call it a bar and grill if it didn’t have a grill? The second sentence is totally confusing unless you finally figure out that Willie only had the job for less than three weeks.

Okay, perhaps it would be helpful to know this author is a humor writer. The sentence draws your attention because of the imperfection. It’s funny because of the writer’s personality. It makes me want to read more because I know the writer’s work and there is a promise of more to come.

But what if I didn’t know who wrote the sentence? What if I was expecting a far different type of book? What if I were an unpublished and unknown, wannabe, author who wrote that sentence? Would it get published?

When I read old books and those written by lazy, best selling, authors, A common question comes to mind. Why did this book get published when my manuscript got rejected? As a writer, how many times have you asked that?”

There are several rejected manuscripts sitting in my computer work file, and a bunch more that were never submitted. They wait for me to either rewrite them, or delete them. Meanwhile, I continue to work on new stuff, improving upon the mistakes of the past. Still, I agonize over how to write perfectly, and I know I’m not alone.

Many writers struggle with the craft, knowing there are increasing numbers of people, just like us, who fight for the decreasing resources publishers parcel out for new authors.

It’s just the way it is. Hopeful authors accept the terms, but we never get used to it. We produce well-written books, perhaps better than the books of the past. We should take pride in that fact, but the bar is coming down while we dance the limbo, trying to bend lower with each new paragraph.

Take courage in your ability to dance the dance. You’re getting better with each round. Your writing muscles get stronger each time you bend lower. If you fall, get up, improve your stance, enjoy the music, and try again.

Have you found a favorite sentence blunder written by a well-known author? Make a comment to share it with us, and be proud of your craft. Know you are producing better work than the writers of the past.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week. Oh, by the way, Happy Pioneer Day.

1 comment:

Jolene said...

This post made me think about editing and how often, and how much have we gone back and sifted and sorted to make sure that everything flows the way it's supposed to? How many sentences, at the end of a project, have been left completely untouched? And how on earth do awkward sentences and typos make it into the final draft?