Thursday, 6 December 2007

Practical Criticism

If someone told you your hat looked awful, then that is really quite rude. If someone said your hat looked awful as the colour clashed with your hair, then at least there is a reason for the rudeness. If someone said your hat looked awful as the colour clashed with your hair but if you wore a green one it would look lovely, then that is what you want – rude, reason and solution!

Practical criticism isn’t rude though, it’s helpful and very much needed. Most people don’t like to think they could do something better, they like to think whatever they have submitted or done is already the best as wouldn’t that be nice – perfect again Miss Ferst! Why thank you *collects bouquets, blows kisses*

But I still have so much to learn about writing. I am beginning to think I am not a natural (how arrogant was I – a natural, darling!) but it is true! All my life I thought I was pretty good at writing and I think the potential is there definitely, but I struggle with grammar. We were never taught it at school – English was writing stories and reading books, not dissecting how or why sentences are formed. I was never taught it at home either – my family are from the east end – proper cockney! No one bothered with books except me. Studying for English ‘A’ Level was like a slap in the face with a comma. I passed, but after years of being the top person in English because it was just writing stories, and then suddenly being pretty average as now it was all about ‘how’ you write, came as a bit of a shock.

Nowadays, I think I have more of an idea of what goes where but my word it has been an uphill journey, and boy does it ever continue! I am going to have to go over this novel with a fine tooth comb when it is finished. But at least I know my weaknesses, so I know what to look for (plucks stray ellipses, punches irregular tenses) which is always a bonus.

2 comments:

musicobsessive said...

I think I was probably part of the last generation to be taught grammar formally in school and I hated it! I was a very marginal English student (unlike you, obviously!) but it has held me in good stead since so mustn't grumble. But we all have something to learn. When my book manuscript was being copy edited, the CE asked whether my complete absence of hyphens was all part of a sort of avant guarde style statement? Er...no, they were part of a complete ignorance of their use!

Jayne Ferst said...

the CE asked whether my complete absence of hyphens was all part of a sort of avant guarde style statement

Oh that is excellent! I like to think you replied yes, and had a long swishy coat and a cane to twirl jauntily. :)

I think the way my generation was taught English was very creative, and in a way we were all allowed to run free on the imagination side of things. Growing up I was forever writing stories, so this obviously had its benefits! But knowing the correct grammar would have been rather nice…

And that sounds a bit arrogant of me to say I was the top in my year, thinking about it. It was more like I always got A’s and stories read out, that sort of thing, but others did too, so maybe fairer to say a good student, until of course I signed for A Level and suddenly grammar came into the equation! I went from A grades to D in one fair swoop – my head shrank a few notches though, so it was probably a good thing!