Monday, 21 July 2008

!!!!!!

Every year I go through some of the same issues while reading page seventeen submissions, and in thinking about whether I'd like to publish each piece, I wonder what is okay to edit and what is okay to not. And every year it seems the same things drive me nuts.

My favourite thing to loathe is the exclamation mark. Or, more precisely, the dozens of exclamation marks that appear per page in some stories. Not that I'm suggesting I enjoy loathing them. Perhaps just that they always feature top of the list.

It has been said that the use of exclamation marks is a sign of a beginning writer, and that one single story should never contain more than one exclamation mark, and even then, that it should be absolutely necessary.

I am not sure I agree that the use of (excessive...ie more than one) exclamation marks is necessarily a sign of a beginning writer. Especially as page seventeen publishes several pieces from new writers in each issue, and it is true that the bulk of submissions are not riddled with them. Anyway, many new writers are good writers, just without a publication history.

No, I suspect that it is more accurate to suggest that 'good' writers do not need to use them, so don't.

However, this doesn't help me decide whether to include a piece or not. Some stories with excessive !!! are otherwise very good, and indeed worthy of publication. But I cannot bring myself to leave all those !!! in. I have mixed feelings about whether, as editor, it is my place to 'play' with this. In the past, I have both rejected pieces based almost purely on this, as well as having published pieces after removing a hearty portion of them, if not all.

In reading this year's lot, it seems some things are not destined to change. One story I just read must have at least fifteen on every double-spaced page. Not only that, in most cases, the writer has used language that expresses the exclamation competently, and so it seems to me a matter of both showing and telling the reader (another no-no).

So what do you think? Is it okay for the editor to delete as many !!! as they feel is appropriate, or is this part of the writer's style that should not be touched?

By the way, I love a good use of !!! in an email...they do have their place.

3 comments:

featherfour said...

Oh, I'm with you. Perhaps it's all those afternoons I spent deep in comics as a kid (and not so much of a kid) that I love !!! and !?! – both of which I see as eloquent phrases when delivered just over the top of a character's head.

According to writer/artist/poet/teacher Alicia Sometimes, you're allowed one ! per semester, and it'd better be there for a good reason.

When I start reading one of those stories that has at least one ! in every paragraph, my eyes start to glaze over. All those !s are like the violent red and yellow colouring of poisonous caterpillars: they mean "Danger, Will Robinson."

They mean "Crap story alert."

If you find a story that's worth reading and it's full of !s, then for the sake of your readers, remove them. It's your responsibility as the editor.

But I reckon good luck finding a story that's full of !s and is still worth reading. They are not the sign of a new writer, as you say. They are the sign of a crap writer.

featherfour said...

Oh, I'm with you. Perhaps it's all those afternoons I spent deep in comics as a kid (and not so much of a kid) that I love !!! and !?! – both of which I see as eloquent phrases when delivered just over the top of a character's head.

According to writer/artist/poet/teacher Alicia Sometimes, you're allowed one ! per semester, and it'd better be there for a good reason.

When I start reading one of those stories that has at least one ! in every paragraph, my eyes start to glaze over. All those !s are like the violent red and yellow colouring of poisonous caterpillars: they mean "Danger, Will Robinson."

They mean "Crap story alert."

If you find a story that's worth reading and it's full of !s, then for the sake of your readers, remove them. It's your responsibility as the editor.

But I reckon good luck finding a story that's full of !s and is still worth reading. They are not the sign of a new writer, as you say. They are the sign of a crap writer.

Tiggy Johnson said...

I like the idea of one ! per semester even more than one per story.

Thanks for your support in believing the editor should remove them...just the little arm twist I needed.