Friday, 12 April 2013

I Must Stress...

I haven't been much of a writer of late, lazing about in the Highlands, helping my friend to get married, distracted by the day job.

I decided to get back into the swing of things gradually by looking at a few competitions. I like competitions because they focus your mind on a short, achievable goal, thematic and time-bound. Occasionally, I even come out on top. Right now, like most writers, my bank balance could use a bump.

I found one that looked promising. I'd seen it before, and it was accepting online entries for the first time. I like online entries. Saves ink, the environment, and the cost of postage. Win, win and - win.

Unfortunately, as with many writing competitions using online entry forms, copy/pasting your work into them completely washes them of any formatting.

When I wrote to mention this, I received the following reply:

Entering online removes any formatting, leaving just the merits of the text to be judged.

If you feel your italics etc need to be seen as part of the judging, then I would recommend you use the postal system.

We always judge on content only, so there is a level playing field for all entries.

We are looking forward to reading your work.

This is a well established literary prize, talking to people who are obsessed with writing and 'merits of the text'.

I know I'm not the only author they'll need to scrape off the ceiling after a reply like that.

Italics are fundamental.

Writers worth their weight will immediately understand that it's not only important points they can be used to stress, but that they're absolutely necessary to indicate foreign words and phrases.

As an English writer, I'm apt to use foreign phrases from time to time, such as en route, nom de plume, tête-à-tête and ad hoc, ad nauseam.

As an English writer writing a book set in Iran, I'm also more than slightly likely to throw in some phrases in Turkish, Persian and Arabic. 

Even if you never use foreign words, and your story takes place in Middlesex, how are your characters going to think?

She reached for another cup of coffee. Am I making sense here? Does anyone grasp what I'm saying?

Honestly. How can a panel of judges judge my work on its literary merit when they don't appear to comprehend the very foundation of the stuff?

Bah, humbug, she thought, consigning her entry to the waste paper basket. That'll teach me to write distractions when I should be bashing out the sequel to War and Peace. Et cetera, et cetera.

Nuff said.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely with you on the italics business. Please don't write a sequel to War and Peace. It's so self-contained. Writing a sequel to Anna Karenina would be good. Maybe it's already been done. "Ouch" thought Anna. "That railway engine really hurt! How is it I can still stand and walk? Why are people running away from me? Braaaaaiiins...."