Grammar Sex

Grammar Sex
(How Dangling Your Participle Can Hurt Your Book Sales)
By Author Robert Germaux

Okay, I got your attention with that grammar sex thing, right? I’m sure you already know that in the wild and crazy world of eBooks, getting people to look at your work is often more difficult than it was to actually write the thing in the first place. And I’m sure you also know why. It’s because there is an inordinate amount of simply awful writing out there, so much so that the sheer volume of it can easily overwhelm the relatively few really good books, books like yours. The best way to keep your artfully-crafted masterpiece from drowning in that sea of mediocrity is to do everything you can to separate it from those thousands of other books. Research shows, and here I’m talking my made-up research, but I’m sure actual research would back me up on this . . . anyway, research, real or otherwise, indicates that once you’ve grabbed your readers’ attention (by, for example, throwing the word sex into your title), the best way to keep them turning those pages is to present them with prose so superbly written, so free of errors in spelling and punctuation and syntax, that they simply lose themselves in your wonderful narrative.
So how do you go about guaranteeing that your book lands in the can’t-put-it-down category? There are several potential paths to that goal, a few of which I’ll list here.

1. You can follow my example and spend thirty-one years as a high school English teacher before beginning your writing career. Frankly, unless you’re at a total loss about what to do with the next three decades of your life, I’d skip this option.
2. Find out where the retired English teachers in your area hang out and pay them a visit. It wouldn’t hurt to pick up a couple boxes of donuts along the way and put them on a table off to one side of the room. The retirees might think they’re at yet another faculty meeting, and you could give them your manuscript to proofread while they enjoy the free pastries.
3. Join a writers group and identify the best writer there. Then befriend that person (praise, pastries, whatever) and be completely open to every comment, suggestion or criticism that individual has to offer.
4. Go Google crazy. The problem here, of course, is that you’d have to at least know what was wrong and then Google a solution. Plus, contrary to what you might have heard, you really can’t trust everything you read on the Net. (True story: The Wikipedia entry for one of my college roommates, who went on to become a best-selling author, says he was born in 1951, which would have made Richard twelve our freshman year. I’m pretty sure I would have noticed.)

In the end, the how isn’t as important as the what. One way or another, get help.
Even the best writers occasionally hit a literary speed bump, and it’s nice to have someone around to pick you up and point you in the right direction when that happens.
A final word of advice, something I used to tell my high school students. There’s no such thing as good writing, just good rewriting. So good luck with your writing and, especially, your rewriting.

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About Robert Germaux

Both my parents were readers. I'm talking stacks-of-books-on-their-nightstands readers. So it's no surprise that an early age, I, too, became an avid reader. Everything from sports books (especially baseball) to Nancy Drew to the Hardy Boys to almost anything about distant and exotic places. And although I've always enjoyed putting words on paper, the writer in me didn't fully emerge until I retired after three decades of teaching high school English. I quickly wrote two books aimed at middle school readers, at which point my wife urged me to try a novel for adults. As is usually the case, Cynthia's idea was a good one. Over the next few years, I wrote several books about Pittsburgh private eye Jeremy Barnes, including "Hard Court." Along the way, I took a brief hiatus from the detective genre to write "The Backup Husband," the plot line of which came to me one day when I was playing the What-if game. On that particular day, the question that occurred to me was, What if a woman suddenly realized she might be in love with two wonderful men? After "The Backup Husband," I wrote "Small Talk," my first novel about Pittsburgh police detective Daniel Hayes. I then switched gears again with "Grammar Sex (and other stuff)," a book of humorous essays. Now I’m back with "One by One," the second Daniel Hayes mystery, which will be released on June 1st. In our spare time, Cynthia and I enjoy reading (of course), seeing Broadway plays and musicals, watching reruns of our favorite TV shows, such as "Sports Night" and "The Gilmore Girls," and traveling to some of those distant and exotic places I used to read about as a child. So far, we've been fortunate enough to walk in the sands of Waikiki, swim in the warm waters of the South Pacific and enjoy a romantic dinner in Paris.
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