Aspiring Writer ‘Nedds’ Help

Yeah, no kidding. The new writer posted on a writers’ discussion group, stating he ‘Nedds’ help in the topic title. Could have been a simple lapse, but his post proved otherwise. This comes back to me whenever someone suggests some people just shouldn’t be writing, or that kids today have been warped by high-tech gibberish. Maybe so, but it would take time to figure that out. You write and learn, according to the usual consensus, which concludes people who want to write should go ahead, regardless of their inexperience, and take the blows along the way.

James Joyce may have 'nedded' help

James Joyce may have ‘nedded’ help

I’ve seen my share of writers who have incredibly creative potential, yet lack the basic grammatical knowledge. No, no! Periods and commas go inside quotes, dammit! One young writer sent me a manuscript, a wonderful fantasy tale, in which she repeatedly used attributions inside the quotes. “I’m going to talk to Xena on the far side of the planet, Aegis said.” It was amazing because she had such an extraordinary imagination. Where on Earth, so to speak, did she learn English or writing? Her manuscript was riddled with errors — and made my fee quickly drop in value for the time and effort.

I’m happy to say this writer has learned quite a bit and I feel some satisfaction in being her mentor. Not bad for someone without a college degree. I learned the ropes as a sports writer for a local newspaper. Luckily, though I didn’t think so at the time, I had a crusty editor who had the ability to make me feel like crap whenever he threw back a story. “You watch too much TV! Miami breaks out of its huddle; the Dolphins break out of their huddle.” Yeah, he was the typical crusty-but-benign boss who taught me more in a few weeks than I ever learned in high school — mostly my fault for sleeping in class.

Blame It on the Stones

So, I guess you can’t necessarily blame it on education, since many students spend too much time sleeping in class, taking drugs and having sex. When you get a job, you realize you better get learnin’ because this is how you make a living — so later on you can sleep on the job, take drugs and have sex.

Through all my trials and tribulations, I’ve evolved into a crusty-but-benign editor, albeit more benign than crusty. I usually leave my curt and candid remarks to myself to help build character within my subjects (OK, I like the feeling of authority, but I’m not one of dem dere grammar nasties). To get back to the subject, some of the best writers start out grammatically challenged. James Joyce was just the opposite. He was educated and then began making things up as he went along. Glad I didn’t have to edit Finnegans Wake.

For many aspiring writers, the kernels of storytelling are there; they just need to understand how to place the thingamajig with the whatchamacallit. They may ‘nedd’ help, but it doesn’t mean they’re part of a lost generation.

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