Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nit Picking


The Harvesters,
Leon-Augustin Lhermitte,
pastel on paper, 1891.

Critiquers often excuse mention of minor flaws in a manuscript - a spelling mistake, a vague pronoun, a plot point that does not compute - as "nit-picking."

Writers are sometimes advised to ignore nit pickers as fine-toothed comb fetishers.

Well, you know what nits are.

Lice eggs.

And if they are not removed at the same time as the creepy little blood suckers, they hatch.

(Makes my head itch just writing this.)

If writers ignore nits, fail to eradicate nits, they may end up scratching their heads at a pile of rejections, all because of lousy writing.

Pimp Report: You might like to check out James Cheetham, another writer with a story in Weirdly: A Collection of Strange Stories.(www.wildchildpublishing.com/content/view/412/213/)

38 comments:

Joshua said...

It's so nice for me to have found this blogg of yours, it's so interesting. I sure hope and wish that you take courage enough to pay me a visit in my PALAVROSSAVRVS REX!, and plus get some surprise. My blogg is also so cool! Don't think for a minute that my invitation is spam and I'm a spammer. I'm only searching for a public that may like or love what I POETRY write, among other types of Artistic Texts.

Feel free off course to comment as you wish and remember: don't take it wrong, don't think that this visitation I make is a matter of more audiences for my own blogg. No. It's a matter of making universal, realy universal, all this question of bloggs, all the essential causes that bring us all together by visiting and loving one another. However...

Some feel invaded and ofended that I present myself this way in their blogs and rudely insult me back or post a mockery post on me.
Some think I'm playing the smart guy who wants to profit, in my miserable and ridiculous gain with Adsense (go figure!), from and with others curiosity and benevolence.
Some simply ignore me.
Some aknowledge that It's most important we all take notion that there's milions of us bloguing arownd the world and thus vital any kind of awareness such as I believe this my self-introduction card and insert apeal brings in.

May you be one of those open and friendly spirits.

You must not feel obliged to come and visit me. An invitation is not an intimation. Also know that if you FOR A SECOND click on one of my ads I'm promised to earn a couple of cents for that: I would feel happy and rewarded (because I realy unemployedly need it!!!) if you did click it FOR A SECOND, but once again you're totaly free to do what ever you want. I, for instance, choose immediatly to click on one of your ads, in case you have them. To do so or not, that's the whole beauty of it all, however, blogocitizens must unite also by clicking-helping eachother when we know cybermegacorporations profit from our own selfishness regarding to that simple click.

About this I must say, by my own experience, that no one realy cares (maybe a few) about this apeal I make, still I believe in my Work and Dreams and thus I'll keep on apealing and searching so strong is my will.

I think it's to UNITE MANKIND that we became bloggers! Don't see language as an obstacle but as a challenge (though you can use the translater BabelFish at the bottom of my page!) and think for a minute if I and the rest of the world are not expecting something like a broad cumplicity. Remenber that pictures talk also. Open your heart and come along!!!!!

Bernita said...

I rest my case...

kmfrontain said...

Well, I did pop over to visit his blog and discovered his native language isn't English. I didn't click any adds.

Sam said...

Bernita, I think you need a fine tooth comb here.
LOL
After fighting said nits all summer, I couldn't help admiring your post (even while feeling a bit scratchy!)
Lousy writing.
LOL!!!!
Oh, and I can't wait to check out the Weirdly, a Collection of Strange Stories - Congrats!!!!

Bernita said...

Karen, I think BabelFish should be banned.

Thank you, Sam!
In a CSI show I saw recently, one of the crime scene investigators found lice on a victim's clothing, and his partner immediately began scratching her head. Her automatic response made the scene very real!

Jaye Wells said...

This is why you must make it clear to a critiquer or reader what you want from their feedback. My partner is finishing my draft right now and I specifically asked him to ignore the nits and focus on the big picture. Once I complete those revisions, I'll send it to my most anal acquaintance for nit picking.

Church Lady said...

Nit picking.

And I look forward every summer to strawberry and blueberry picking.

Soon, we'll be apple picking.

I guess nit picking isn't a seasonal activity. I love the giving and receiving of nit picks.

**scratches scalp** and signs off...

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, Bernita, you may have just justified my obsessive compulsive need to correct things in my work. I should probably thank you. Probably.

Bernita said...

A division of labour, then, Jaye.

The only picking one should ignore is the raspberry kind, Chris.

Of course you should, Charles!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Nice analagy.

I tend to do very detailed crits (comes from editing) and I have a hard time leaving stuff alone. One of my fellow critters always needs a lot of help, and I know she cringes at my copy of her subs because they're all marked over--much more than the others'! To me, I have to knock into every tree to discover the forest. Just the way I am.

Bernita said...

I like to be informed of the nits, SS.
It helps to discourage sticky bad habits.

Robyn said...

*scratches head over I POETRY*

I think Jaye brings up a great point. I have worried over a certain topic (was I info-dumping) and asked a critter specifically about that. I have also asked critters for an overall impression, and for detail work. It helps.

Bernita said...

I was thinking of a more general palais de critique, like EE, but I strongly agree, Robyn. Clear, specific expectations can save more than time.

raine said...

I rest my case...

In the immortal words of Ms. Snark...WTF?

Um...agree.
All nits must die!!!
Off to brush my hair now...

Josephine Damian said...

Bernita, the nit wits hate it when you nit pick - the clueless masses all think they're writing is perfect.

A young gal from my writer's group just sent me a nasty email because I didn't gush over her sucky short story. How dare I!

I just keep repeating this old cliche to myself: you can bring the horse to water...

The biggest, best published writers all listen to constructive criticism, it's how they became the biggest and the best. And the one's who get up in arms over the tiniest suggestion deserve to wallow in obscurity.

PS. Girl, you sure DID prove your point with that I Poetry guy.

Bernita said...

To mention another Miss Snark reaction, Raine...just don't set it on fire!

So true, Josephine and well put.
For that spammer to show up this morning was the most remarkable coincidence. I am still a bit flabbergasted.

Kate Thornton said...

Bernita, I am still laughing - that's a heck of a long post, too. But I am always generous with folks who write in a language not their own.

As to nit-picking: pick on. Those pesky details comprise the whole.

But I am itching like crazy now...

Bernita said...

And I've been scratching my own head all morning!

Kate, setting the language aside, his post is exactly the same as the spam I used to get before I enabled word verification - "Hi, great blog. Visit me at MY cool blog all about..."

The Anti-Wife said...

So nice of him to tell us he's not a spammer.

I'm all for nit picking. If you send something off, you don't want to give the agent/editor an additional reason to reject you. Poor spelling and grammar, too much passive voice and other common mistakes might just be the difference between requests for more and total oblivion.

Bernita said...

I read his 'first" language as "pan-handle," AW.
Nit-picking may remind us to break bad habits.

Angie said...

I'm a nit-picker and always have been. I'm a compulsive editor -- it's like perfect pitch, I can't turn it off -- and when I see something that clanks in a story I'm critiquing, I mention it. Anything. If a writer doesn't want their story thoroughly gone over with a magnifying glass and tweezers, they need someone else to do the job.

And my experience is the same as Josephine's -- the really good writers welcome constructive criticism. It's the sucky ones who get all puffed up and indignant. :P

Angie

Bernita said...

One often feels to NOT mention things, one is doing the writer as disservice, Angie.
All comments have value, even those based on taste deserved consideration.

Jon M said...

My wife is a good nit-picker, it drives me insane when she looks up from my work with a frown cos I know she is right! If I have to explain, my writing ain't communicating! I like to think of it as mutual grooming! I'm not going to Joshua's blog, it sounds creepy.

Bernita said...

"My wife is a good nit-picker..."
And you are lucky to have her, Jon. Good nit-pickers are gold.

spyscribbler said...

Great analogy!

Out, damn nit!

Shesawriter said...

I guess I'm a nitpicker too, but I don't treat other writers any different than I treat myself. I'm incredibly anal when it comes to my own writing.

Scott from Oregon said...

Nothing worse than sitting behind someone with nits at a movie theatre.

The little bastards hop around and are made visible by the lighting on the screen...

Rowan said...

That was the creepiest and most accurate analogy I've heard in a long time.
*scratches*
It's true though. As Jaye Wells said, the big picture is the first priority, but cleaning the finished product is essential.

Angie said...

Bernita -- that's exactly it. [nod] When someone sends me five pages of story and I send them twelve pages of commentary it's because I thought their story was worth the time and effort I put into it. It means that I respect them as a writer and am assuming they care enough about their work to want to hear about everything.

And yes, a lot of that isn't just dinging things I think are wrong, but also just data -- my reactions to whatever. I mention where I laughed or what made me tense or what line or action made me really want to toss Bob off a cliff. I'll say that I think this thing here is a red herring and what I think is really going on. That lets the writer make sure that what I'm catching is what she's pitching. I wouldn't bother doing any of that if I thought the story sucked or the writer wasn't serious.

Angie

writtenwyrdd said...

I agree that the issue isn't ignoring the nits, it is that they are one of the last things to worry about.

I personally believe that the focus should first be on the Structural rather than more or less Cosmetic issues.

Big things like plot holes, dangling plotlines, characters that get a lot of space but don't get carried through the plot, etc.... These things need fixing first. Then you can yell at me for stupid grammar errors and use of -ly adjectives or sing-songy alliteration that calls attention to itself.

And that joshua post? OMG did my eyes cross trying to read it. Maybe we should all drop posts as badly written as that one on his blog...

Bernita said...

Natasha Sweethands...

A fact about critters that the hyper-sensitive often don't realize, Tanya.

"Nits don't hop, Scott," she said, editorily.

Seems mentioning lice is like yawning, Rowan!

Exactly, Angie. Again, well put.

I think it's a louse (chicken)-and-egg thingy, Written.

Anonymous said...

True, to a point. But if the nitpickers only focus on the nits, they can miss the big picture entirely, which is the story.

Currently reading a published novel (author's second) where she seems to break all the rules. The writing isn't spectacular, but she's weaving a good story.

The crit'er in me would say 'Cut! POV character can't know that!' or 'Too many LONG flashbacks! Get on with the story!' and a few other issues.

But the story trumps all. The writing doesn't stink, but it would be hamburger meat if it hit my former crit group...

Bernita said...

Anon, my point is that the writer should pay attention to both and not dismiss nits as an either/or.

Joshua said...

Didn't want to sound so obscene! No, I rest my case. My ads is like not having ads at all.

M.E Ellis said...

I agree with you there.

If more crit partners opened their mouths and said what was wrong instead of not wanting to hurt Author's feelings, it would save us editors the job of having to hurt them... And a lot of work!

Present company excepted, Bernita. I wish more people sent in submissions like yours.

:o)

Bernita said...

Michelle, I loved working with you.

IM Cupnjava said...

I wouldn't consider those examples of "nit-picking". I think those are the types of things that NEED to be fixed. (And I reconize that's your point.)

Let me see if I can come up with an example of nit-picking. Here's an example where no one really cared. LOL! In one of my titles I use the words "button-up shirt" and the EME pointed out that I COULD use "button-down shirt". It means the same thing in my eyes. A shirt that buttons versus a pullover. The EME was merely suggesting and was not telling me to change it. I told her to change it if she thought it needed to be changed and it didn't really matter to me.

If a reader gets frustrated with the story because of "button-up" instead of "button-down", then I never had them with the story to begin with.

Bernita said...

Yep, IM.
Some people confuse a true nit with simple dandruff...ie. an interpretation.