My father-in-law got me this mug last year and I almost couldn’t accept it. Because I have a dirty little secret: I am not good with grammar.
In fact, one of the reasons I waited so long to become a writer was that I thought being good with grammar was a prerequisite. I was an atrocious speller. I somehow missed the day(s?) in school when they covered basic punctuation. I didn’t know when to use “that” or “which.” It was mortifying.
So when I decided that, in spite of all my shortcomings, I really wanted to be a writer anyway – I did two things:
- I studied. I bought every book on grammar and sentence structure that I could get my hands on. I read them, a little bit, every day and slowly (very slow) I started to get a handle on the specifics of the English language. I became a nerd word – circling words in books that I didn’t know and looking them up (and often sharing them online). This is an ongoing effort.
- I started putting money aside to hire a professional editor. Because as much as I’ve learned, I still manage to gloss over an enormous number of typos. Now, I can’t really afford to hire her to go over every post I write here on my blog (if you read more than two posts you will probably notice a typo, a heads-up is always appreciated) and I accept that. But I cannot abide errors in my fiction. I pay an editor (well) to go over my manuscript before I even send it to my agent because I would prefer he go on believing that I’m just that good.
All this is to say that storytelling and grammar are different skill sets. Being good (or bad) at one does not necessarily mean that you are good (or bad) at the other. Know your skills. Study up. Hire someone to back you up, and never let anybody tell you that you can’t be a writer.