Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Holy Grammar Nazi, Batman!

All righty then. I have just read the WORST critique EVER. Not worst as in 'bad.' A bad critique is the one that reads as follows:

Wow. This was good. I have nothing else to say.

I mean, unless you're Homer or Dante that sort of critique is pretty much useless. No, I'm talking about a great critique on a bad piece of writing. First off, any time the critique is longer than the story it's not a good sign. Second, if the critique is the only thing written with things like proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation it's REALLY not a good sign.

But what if the critique is so entertaining in its badness that you forget what the story is about? That can't be good, can it?

I pride myself on giving good, solid story critiques. I usually leave the technical aspects to someone more qualified than I to give it, for example someone with a degree in English. Nothing wrong with a good grammar nazi; every writer should endeavor to have at least one friend who qualifies for grammar nazidom. I focus on character development, pertinency of plot devices, the fine art of substituting words in well-know cliches...that sort of thing. I will, if pressured, point out a stray comma or superfluous adverb but that's very rare. Unlike the grammar nazi, I'm reasonably fond of commas and adverbs.

What made this particular crit so funny was how long it took for the grammar nazi to degenerate from detailed, nicely written explanations to "OMG WILL YOU FUCKING FIX THAT?" (paraphrased, of course) I have to admit, I was laughing helplessly by the end of it. I printed it off after I was done and am now commissioning a lithograph from the critique. I want it silkscreened onto 3 x 5 panels to hang along the stairway in my foyer. Kind of like Andy Warhol meets Miss Snark. It could be fun.

There is a down side to this story however, and it is this. The person who received the critique is unlikely to actually benefit from it at all. This writer has never, to my knowledge, taken a crit and implemented it into any of his further rewrites. The grammar nazi has expended so much time and effort, effort that could have been better used on someone who was willing to pick up the red pen themselves and improve their work.

My writing is not perfect. Far from it. I am in no position to really sit back and slice up another writer's work with grammatical precision. But then again, I can't begin to calculate the number of hours that I've sat, Chicago Manual of Style in hand, and gone through my stories line by line to ensure that I've given my absolute best to a piece of work. Even then, I miss a lot. But, at least I made the effort.

So here's to the grammar nazis of the world. My hat's off to you. And to this particular grammar nazi (and you know who you are) a special salute. Although your intended recipient will never ever appreciate what you've done, I certainly do. It's the best damn critique I've ever--EVER--seen.

By the way, my manuscript is in the mail. Be gentle with it. And when you win your Pullitzer, I'll be able to say I knew you when.

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