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Don’t sweat the small stuff

While writing your first (or any subsequent) novel, you’ll probably run into plenty of grammatical situations that leave you Googling for answers.

  • “Lay versus Lie”
  • “Am I using this word too much?”
  • “What’s that word that starts with an ‘a,’ means that someone is complying, and kind of sounds like the name of that band from the mid-2000s with the Gothy female singer?”

You’ve got two basic objective goals while writing your first draft – get it done, and don’t make your life difficult during your subsequent rounds of editing.  There are so many bizarre grammar rules in the English language that if you sweat them all as you run into them, you will never finish writing.  Yes, there are plenty of grammar rules you should try and get right the first time, such as capitalization of the first word in a sentence/proper nouns, proper punctuation at the end of a sentence, and spelling words properly.  Those are basics that you should be comfortable owning.

That said, it’s best during the writing process to not get hung up on little things, like the examples on the list above.  “Lay” versus “lie” is something that I’d imagine the majority of native English speakers don’t fully understand, and it’s totally fine to just write what is natural, use the commenting feature in your word processor to leave a note, and come back to it during your first round of editing.  (And look, I’m not advocating for improper grammar, but in this specific case, even if the wrong homophone made it into your final copy, odds are that very few of your readers would even notice.)

The point I’m making here is that you are writing a rough manuscript of something that you will, if done properly, edit two or three times and also have at least one other person read.  It would be awesome to get it right the first try, because it would make your life a lot easier when it comes time to edit, but if you can’t think of a word, or the proper usage of punctuation, or think you may have bungled a homophone – don’t worry about it right now unless you can find the answer you’re looking for in 30 seconds or less.  Any more time than that, leave a comment/highlight it and move on.  Removing yourself from the story will take you out of your groove, and that’s something you don’t want to do once you’re there.

Save the perfectionism for editing.


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