Write It Sideways

The 3 Things Writers Will Never Agree On

Last week, I was thrilled to receive a message from literary agent Nathan Bransford, of Curtis Brown Ltd., letting me know I was one of 3 winners in his recent blogging contest.

It was a tremendous honour to have my article, Are You a Word Nerd or a Grammar Rebel? aired on Nathan’s website. The post ended up with 130 comments worth of debate over a few finer points of grammar.

There was quite a lively discussion about whether the phrases “white snow” and “cold snow” are redundant, or descriptive. Eventually, it turned into a debate over how many words the Inuit people have to describe snow.

Many commenters felt very strongly about these points, on one side or another.

This made me stop and think about the things writers just can’t seem to agree on. Indeed, even the title of this post (which ends in a preposition) will be controversial to some.

Here are the 3 things I believe divide writers into distinct philosophical camps:


He/she vs. They. To fragment, or not to fragment? Who or Whom?

Show me a writer who doesn’t like to argue over grammar, and I’ll show you one who thinks books are a waste of money.

There’s simply something about it–its strictness in certain areas, and its ambiguity in others–that makes people crazy to jump in one boat the another.

What aspects of grammar get you all riled up?

Outlining vs. Pantsing

Here’s one that’s cut-throat. Truly.

There’s been much heated discussion around the blogosphere regarding which is more effective–planning your stories first, or making them up as you go along.

One must eventually ask oneself this: whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous pantsing, or to take arms against a sea of outlines?

To Self-Publish or Not

Ooh, another one that makes people hopping mad.

Is self-publishing really publishing? Is there a magic number of book sales that makes a self-published author successful?

Should publishing houses be allowed to offer self-publishing services to authors of rejected manuscripts?

What Do You Think?

Before I ask you to share your opinions, here are some of my thoughts on these touchy subjects.

I love to talk about grammar, and I love to learn about grammar. I make mistakes all the time, and I’m not too proud to admit it. Some grammar is flexible, some isn’t. My biggest pet peeve is when people forget to capitalize and punctuate–not just one sentence, but entire paragraphs.

I firmly believe in the benefits of outlining, but I’m relaxed on the extent to which one does this. You might plan every scene ahead of time, or just a general plot outline.

In my opinion, self-publishing is good for a few things: it works for those who would simply love to own a copy of their own book, and some non-fiction titles have done well with the right marketing. Do I plan on it? No.

I think it’s wrong to encourage authors to self-publish if they’re rejected.  Self-publishing needs to be a personal decision, and an informed one.

Now, your turn.

What do you think?