Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Don’t dangle your participles

What’s the most valuable business skill that you’ve used in your writing career. Can be anything from contract negotiation to typing to computer programming, like HTML and making your own website, or anything else?

by Dietrich

Financial management, people skills, sales, marketing, communication, project management, public speaking, delegation, problem solving, networking. I’m not an expert at any of those things, but I’ve learned at least a little along the way. 

When I was submitting short stories to publications some years back, a kind editor sent back a note, that while the story was pretty good, my grammar was shit. I thought about it, cursed a while, then I realized the editor was right. So, I got my hands on a tall stack of textbooks to sharpen my language skills, and I studied those texts till my eyes blurred. And now I often I break grammar rules for the sake of style — but knowing where to put the bullets, laundry marks and what-nots has sure helped in all kinds of correspondence. In this day of texts, tweets and dashed-off emails, you might think it hardly matters — and while I wouldn’t go toe to toe with my copy editor and argue the finer points of grammar, like whether I should have just used an n or m dash — I think adding some polish to a submission or business-related letter can go a long way.

“If proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.” — Elmore Leonard

Writing for the most part is a solo effort, and it keeps me inside my head for a good part of the day, so public speaking wasn’t something that came naturally. In fact, the first time out I was petrified, but once I got up to the microphone I really enjoyed it. And now, I look forward to any chance to take part in panels, readings and interviews. It’s a great way to network and meet with fellow authors and readers alike.

Having run a business for a long time taught me to be a good juggler, and not to procrastinate and put anything off, knowing that it would mean another potential ball in the air. And although those closest to me could argue about my organizational skills, I usually know which pile I put something in. Sometimes it just takes an extra minute to find whatever it is I’m looking for. And along the way, I learned to keep an updated calendar and organize receipts to keep tax time from becoming a total horror show.

So, basically I think I’ve got enough business skills to scrape by, at least enough for somebody who just wants to play with words.


Paul D. Marks said...

I agree with the Elmore Leonard quote, but as you learned from that editor, I think it's good to know the rules before you break them. Then there's method to one's madness when they break the rules.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, Paul. Yes, certainly good to know the rules before you break them.