Grandma Says..

Observations and views from a different set of eyes

Why I’ll Never Be A Famous Writer

on June 5, 2013



Ever since I could understand the written word, I have wanted to be a writer.

I am a consummate reader; I devour words and I spit them back out with a vengeance!  I’ve got the tools to string sentences together to make them readable and I have ideas that people seem to enjoy.  Instructors have told me that I have a natural talent for writing and that they believe I could reach the masses with my words.

So why is my dream of being a famous writer still a dream?

Well, I’ll tell you folks, it’s all due to PUNCTUATION!

I hate rules. Rules are made to be broken (notice I said rules, not laws, just in case you get the wrong idea!) And writing requires following the basic and not-so-basic rules of Punctuation! Ask any writing instructor or editor!

Why? I ask. Isn’t the content of the story what matters? Do editors even read the story, or do they stop at the first incorrect usage of a semi-colon? Why should it matter if I choose to throw in an unneeded comma here and there? Does it change the story?

I was taught how to follow the rules of punctuation…I just chose to ignore them. So, as a result, my English papers always contained those dreaded red ink messages from my teacher; my writing instructors did the same. Even my father, may he rest in peace, would send my letters back to me, CORRECTED! True fact!

My hero was my Nana, who only had a fourth grade education. She would send a two page letter, without a single piece of punctuation! Sure, it took longer to decipher her letter, but I considered it a challenge and loved her independence from the rules of punctuation.

But, alas, I am learning that in order to have a chance at getting any of my work published, I must follow the rules.  I have surrendered to the fact that I must edit my work carefully and make sure all the “i’s” are dotted and quote marks are in their proper places.  I must make William Strunk’s “The Elements Of Style” my new best friend or watch my manuscripts get thrown in the shredder.

I could hire an on-line editor, but they charge by the hour, and I’m sure not all of them are graduates of the “Evelyn Wood’s Speed-Reading Course.” Taking that easy way out would be too costly for a senior citizen on a limited income.

So, off I go to relearn those basic rules of punctuation.  Feel my pain and wish me luck.  If you’re a new and inspiring writer, sharing my dream of being a famous novelist, do yourself a favor.  Learn the rules!

Just saying.


Author’s note:  This was also one of my first “rants” on WordPress.  I’ve made some changes since the original post…hope you enjoy!


32 responses to “Why I’ll Never Be A Famous Writer

  1. Leanne says:

    I’m a professional editor, and, may I just say, you are a fantastic writer. First of all, rest assured, I’ve never tripped over your punctuation (or lack thereof) in this space. Second, writing/editing is 85% story/messaging and 15% mechanics. If you are telling a compelling, believable story that connects on an emotional level, you are well on your way to success. The mechanics can be learned and polished.

    I’ll put it this way: You can have the most beautifully crafted piece of work, with all the commas in the right spots, your i’s dotted and t’s crossed, but if the work (the story, the message) isn’t moving your reader, then you have perfectly and eloquently said nothing.

    This is not to say, however, that mechanics aren’t important, because they are. You are doing the right thing in learning the rules (although many of the rules are just as subjective as the actual work, these days). But a misplaced comma shouldn’t get you rejected. A plethora of atrocious/obvious trip-ups, yes, you will likely be rejected.

    So, be as polished as possible (which, judging from your talent here, you are naturally clean and crisp), but more importantly be captivating and emotionally moving–not just in your main work (novel, non-fiction, articles), but also in your “accessory” pieces such as synopses, queries, and cover letters.

    I could go on for hours, but I’ll stop here. You’re always welcome to pick my brain when it comes to this stuff, okay? I love to help writers in their writing/publishing journey because your stories (our stories) matter. I’ll end with my #1 favorite writing quote (and the motivation behind why I am an editor):

    “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” ~Arthur Polotnik

    • comment I’ve ever received from a reader! You, as an editor, are definitely my new best friend and I will be sure to “pick” away. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this great advice.

      They always say…you can’t teach an old dog new tricks..but that’s another myth I hope to break.

      Thanks again!

  2. btg5885 says:

    you could be the next ee cummings

  3. Good for you . BUT …..I always heard …rules were made to be broken …lol

  4. ioniamartin says:

    I love it. I too, have a serious problem with punctuation. I love commas. I love them,,,,,,,,,,,see?

  5. I say blah to them, isn’t that what an editor is for once they are hooked by your work?!

  6. Aurora says:

    I really like everything you’ve posted here so far. By the way I took a note from you yesterday, and tried to attempt today’s post as a story. I just hope it isn’t horrible for a 10 minute off the top of my head piece of work.

  7. I think I need to go back to grammar and punctuation 101 🙂

  8. Gwen says:

    My parents gave me a copy of the Elements of Style in my senior year of high school when I first showed an interest in writing. I still refer to that same dog-eared copy, the binding of which is now held together with duct tape. It’s a great resource and should serve you well.

    I stopped in at critique circle today and did a write-up on your first submission. I enjoyed reading it and hope you find the comments helpful. xo Gwen

    • Hey, thanks so much. I’ve done a lot of editing and revision of the first two chapters since I submitted and am working on the next 2…thanks so much for the input! Much appreciated! Let me know when I can return the favor!

  9. I think you have a great blog here and I can’t even comment on the punctuation cause I don’t notice (or care)

  10. Basharr says:

    Hey Cranky punctuation should be as important as one’s choice of words. I just sold my elements of style edition on Ebay a month or so ago as I had read it a couple times cover to cover. Also I have finished the communication classes required for my degree. But I agree with you and for a long time did the same as you and disregarded proper punctuation…LOL.

    On a side note there is a tragic story about a little girl being denied a lung transplant on my blog and I am trying to get every blogger I can reach to post on this story or start their own push to raise awareness about this child who is fading away. Peace!

  11. I really enjoy your writing. I have been edited all my life and I know where a comma is supposed to go, and I avoid semi-colons like the plague. The best thing you can do is just write. Many good writers can’t get to the finish line. So you’re better off with sentences that are too long than with an unfinished product with all the punctuation in the right places.

  12. John says:

    I’d agree with Leanne… I’ve never tripped over your writing, so I think you worry about it a bit too much.

    There are a couple of good books out there that can help you remember the rules: “Woe is I” by Patricia O’Connor is wonderful (and fun), also “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss, or “The Transitive Vampire” by Karen Elizabeth Gordon … all are great, fun, and very helpful guides to the rules of grammar.

    • Wow, they sound like fun reads even if they are about punctuation. Thanks for the heads up..I’m going to check them out!

      And, once again, thanks for your kind words.

  13. barbtaub says:

    I think your writing meets my most rigorous test. Does it sound like a real person? And would I like to have this conversation with her? Check and check. (And yes — I know that was a sentence fragment. Bite me.) From my journalist days, I tend to avoid commas, ‘that’, and ‘said’. But I’m happy to commit almost any other error. As Winston Churchill replied to the young man who pointed out his sentence-ending preposition sin, “Young man, that is the kind of impudence up with which I will not put!”

  14. Bastet says:

    You’ve got some wonderful comments here so, there’s not much that I can add…you are a great author and to my way of thinking not that bad with punctuation either. Keep up the good work!

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