A. Marie Silver

A. Marie Silver

Misadventures in Editing: A Visit from the Grammar Police

Ever wondered what a writer goes through when editing a work-in-progress?  Here’s your chance to find out. Take a look at some of the conversations I’ve had with my characters while editing my current novel. If you’ve ever had something like this happen to you, please tell me in the comments.

“Where is she?” Amethyst asked through clenched teeth.

“I don’t know,” Celeste said. “Last I heard, she ran out to check the mail.”

Amethyst palmed her forehead. “Great. She’s probably lost in her backyard again.”

I hurried in through the sliding glass door. “I heard that.” I dropped the mail on the coffee table and plopped myself in front of the computer. “Where were we?” I cracked my knuckles, preparing for a mini-writing marathon.  Nap time was almost over. I didn’t have a moment to lose.

“Not so fast,” Celeste said, taking a sip of her tea. “You have some uninvited guests you need to attend to.”

“Who?” I hope she’s not talking about Gideon and Sampson. There isn’t a whole lot I can do about poltergeists. I’m a writer, not an exorcist. Hey! Henry’s a priest, maybe he can do something–

“Don’t even think about it.”

I jumped, not expecting to hear Henry’s voice from over my shoulder. “Rude much! Don’t sneak up on people like that!”

“I don’t do exorcisms and you can’t make me.” Henry sat down in a chair, folding his arms across his chest.

“Wanna bet?” I whispered.  I wasn’t in the mood to get into yet, another fight with one of my characters.

Celeste walked over to me, turning my head toward the door.  “Them.  That’s who.”

“Really?” I asked.

Two thin men, wearing black suits stood in front of the doorway.  Their matching black aviator sunglasses did a fantastic job of preserving their poker faces. I bet these guys are a real hit at the casinos.

“Who wrote you?” I asked.

“That’s not important, Ma’am,” said the bad-ass standing on the left.  He approached me, pulling out a leather wallet from his inside jacket pocket. “I’m Jay. This is my partner Bob.”

Bob grunted.

Jay flipped open his wallet, revealing a shiny gold star. “We’re with the grammar police.”

“Huh?” Call me befuddled, but why would the grammar police be paying me a visit during my first draft?

“We received an anonymous tip that you are guilty of abusing exclamation points.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Who in their right mind would report someone of that? “I would never do any such thing!”

Jay dropped a copy of my manuscript in front of me. “Please turn to page 32.”

“I’ve written 32 pages? Wow! That’s progress!”

“Please comply with my request,” Jay said.

I flipped through the manuscript, finding page 32. “What am I looking at?”

“The areas marked in red,” Jay said.


“What’s so funny?” Jay parked his rear on the coffee table, snaring at me.

“Which red mark? This entire first draft is filled with red marks.” I flipped the pages of the manuscript, admiring the fact that I’ve actually accomplished more than I originally thought.

“That’s exactly my point,” Jay said. “On page 32 alone, you’ve used the exclamation point 29 times.”

“That’s not possible!” I’d have to count to be sure, but I don’t think  I even have 29 sentences on this page.  It’s mostly emojis from that time I attempted writing while I was drunk.  “I demand a recount!”

“Well you’re not going to get one,” Jay remarked.  “That and we’re also filing charges against you for inappropriate usage of a semicolon.” Jay tapped halfway down the page.

“What’s wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong with that?” Jay mimicked me. “I’ll tell you! A semicolon is used to join two sentences that are independent clauses.  You paired your semicolon with a closed parenthesis.”

“That’s because it’s not being used as a punctuation mark!” I shouted. “It’s being used to make a winking smiling face!”

“A winky what?”

“A winking smiley face.  These aren’t sentences! These are emojis! I wasn’t actually writing here! I was screwing around!”

“Quit with the exclamation points, will you!”

“No!” I pounded my fists on the table. “This is my first draft! I’ll use the exclamation point as often as I want!”


“You’re ruining your novel!” Jay’s face was bright red.  His nostrils flared.  If I didn’t know any better, the man was either going to turn into a fire-breathing dragon and incinerate me or he was going to explode.  Personally, I’m hoping for the latter.

“That’s what the second draft is for! I’ll fix it then!”


“I can’t take this anymore!” Jay screamed. His face went from red to purple and then to blue. His eyes bulged out of his fictitious head. His stomach bloated.

And then it happened. Jay exploded, leaving nothing behind except for a pile of confetti.  I could have written blood and guts instead, but confetti is much easier to clean up.  It doesn’t smell; it doesn’t stain either.  Those are important qualities.  So remember that they next time you drive a character to the point of explosion: confetti is cleaner than guts.

15 Responses

  1. This is hysterical! I especially liked the part about using emojis when you tried writing drunk – F. Scott Fitzgerald would be so proud!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Take that grammar police!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I agree – confetti is so much easier to clean up – like first drafts. I, too, liked the emojis while writing drunk and how they used the semicolon – too bad there isn’t an emoji using the exclamation point – perhaps you could invent one?!?!!!!!!!!!?????!

  3. Okay. That was equally awesome and hilarious. I tend to be an over-user of exclamation points and colons myself. I love colons. The punctuation kind. Not the other kind. I love them so much I probably use them incorrectly and little regard for their appropriateness. I am also seriously considering drinking and blogging now. I just have to ensure I save anything as a draft and avoid the publish button at all costs. xo Whitney

    1. Exactly! Bob cleaned up Jay’s glittery remains and left the scene. I hear he’s changed jobs and is now working security for writer’s being harassed by the grammar police.

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A. Marie Smith

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