Tag Archives: novel critiques

“They” as a Singular Pronoun in Literature

5969704980_63ef52f94a_zRecently, I critiqued a few chapters of a young adult fantasy novel. The chapters were interesting, however I stumbled along what I thought to be a pronoun error. It wasn’t until I talked with the author that I realized he meant to use the plural “they” as a singular pronoun.

In traditional grammar, “they” is plural, and only plural. But “they” is also used as a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun. The transgender community has used “they” for decades in an attempt to create non-gender biased language (the “he” or “she” pronouns).

I’ve since talked to many people about using “they” in the singular. Peoples’ reactions have been mixed, with most individuals being completely unaware of this movement (if you’re not part of the transgender community or don’t know someone who is, it’s not surprising you’d make the same mistake I did while critiquing this young man’s work).

Most people I talked to stated that it was fine to have a gender-neutral term, but that the transgender community should have come up with a new term. Using “they” is too confusing. People automatically assume that you’re talking about a group of people when you use “they” (or in the case of this young man’s story, I thought he was referring to conjoined twins – he wasn’t).

Multiple gender-neutral pronouns have been introduced throughout the years (“thon” and “ze” are a few). None have gained enough popularity to become part of everyday culture, which might explain why “they” is now being used.

However, in terms of writing, using “they” in the singular will make it more difficult to get published. In the editing world, you meet tons of people who are sticklers for traditional grammar. Also, since more people than not are unaware of “they” being using in as a non-gendered singular pronoun, it will appear that the author doesn’t know correct grammar.

“They” can still be used in the singular. But if it’s going to be done, then it must be made clear from the get-go what the author’s intentions are. Authors cannot expect readers to see what they intended. Unfortunately, people cannot read each other’s minds. If readers aren’t made aware of a plural pronoun being used in the singular, they will be confused and will likely not continuing reading.

What do you think?

(Photo courtesy of Paul Townsend.)

How to Deal with People Who Hate Your Writing

2124282684_81ecf64191_mAs great as it would be for everyone to love your writing, it’s not going to happen. It’s like recess in elementary school, when you want to play with anyone that’s doing something you enjoy. Just because you want to play with them, and maybe most of them want to play with you, there’s usually someone who wouldn’t rather not.

This can be harsh. Anytime you get rejected it stings, and when it comes to comments on writing, people can be brutal. They’ll tell you exactly what they think, especially now that social media is so popular. All they have to do is fill out a comment box or write a review. They don’t have to face you, or see that you’re human and have feelings that can be hurt.

Granted, this comes with writing. Negative feedback comes anytime you put yourself out there. I see it a lot on online articles. An article might be on a kid who survived cancer, but most of the comments focus on typos within the article. Or, recently, I read an article about E.L. James’ Twitter Q&A (E.L. James wrote Fifty Shades of Grey), where she was vilified. I’m not a fan of her writing, but the comments and questions some individuals presented to her were beyond rude.

One thing to remember is that writers aren’t the only ones getting negative feedback. Their writing isn’t the only type of work getting bashed. Think of restaurant servers, lawyers, store clerks, doctors, etc. There is always going to be someone who complains, someone who can’t stand what you do.

It’s important to keep in mind that getting upset over someone bashing you isn’t going to help. Nor is firing nasty comments back at them. The best thing to do is to ignore the negative comments, which is very difficult because writing is personal. You pour part of yourself into each piece you write. But, like bullies, the haters will eventually move on if you don’t react.

Since ignoring negative comments is difficult, an alternative is to complain to your family or close friends. Get your aggression out of your system with people you trust. That way, if you do respond to the reader, you’ll be more prepared to respond in a manner that defuses the situation rather than aggravates it.

As a writer, your goal isn’t to make everyone happy. It’s to write the story you envision and to make that story the best it can be.

How do you respond to negative feedback?

(Photo courtesy of Stefan Powell.)

Don’t be a Bad Writer! Learn What Good Writers Know

14753911496_29be0d1081_mMany people talk about bad writing versus good writing. Often the label of “good” or “bad” extends past the writing to the writer. There are many possible reasons as to why one writer may be considered “bad,” while another is thought of as “good.” But what is the main difference between good and bad writers?

Resilience.

Good writers are persistent. They refuse to give up. Bad writers stop when they hit a roadblock.

Most often a writer’s first novel isn’t all that great. Writing takes work, and the more you write, and the more you learn to write, the better you become at it. Writing a novel, short story, etc. is a big feat. However, writing a piece of work is only the first part. Revising and editing a piece comes after. Many times revision takes longer than writing the piece.

A writer friend of mine can write a novel in one month. Her first draft is a hot mess (she’s a pantser), which is part of the reason why it takes her months to revise. Typically, she’ll revise her novel twice before she gives it out to two to three beta readers. Then, she waits for their feedback, and when she gets that feedback, she listens to it.

Another friend of mine recently admitted that for the vast majority of feedback he receives, he simply nods his head and smiles, and then ignores whatever was said, rejecting it without any consideration. It’s not all that surprising that he is nowhere near as successful in the writing world as my previously mentioned friend.

Criticism makes your writing better. Having people other than yourself look at your work, allows you to see past your blind spots. You don’t have to be a perfectionist to be a good writer, but you do have to persevere, rewrite, and write consistently.

Bad writers don’t realize this, or choose not to.

You may have come across writers who get defensive when they receive feedback on their work. Maybe you’re one of those writers. It doesn’t help to be closed off to criticism. Yes, it can be frightening to think that your work it brilliant and then receive feedback and realize that your writing needs a lot of work. But in the end, your work will be more realistic and believable. It will have better pacing and will suck readers in. Make your work the best it can be, so that readers will stay up all night just to finish your work.

Do all you can to improve your writing. Be open to feedback and changing your work, even if that means cutting out a few chapters, eliminating a beloved character, or starting over. The goal is to make your work shine. Do whatever is necessary to make that happen.

What do you think?

(Photo courtesy of Internet Archive Book Images)