Monday, June 18, 2012

On Young Authors and Adult Authors Who Try to Write Like Children

This week I've had something of a dubious pleasure to read several submissions by young authors.  By young I mean under 18, and by dubious I mean that they were not represented as such.  These authors, for reasons unknown, chose to represent themselves as adults.

How do I know?

I don't for absolutely certain.

But I've been a young writer myself.  In fact, I recently read one of the horrid stories that now, as an adult, I'm ashamed to have ever unleashed upon an unsuspecting world.  (I threw it in the trash, by the way.  It was THAT awful.)

Still, I don't know for certain.

Flash Fiction Online is an international market.  We have readers form all over the world and accept submissions from all over the world.

And there are 3 possible reasons for a story to be as unprofessionally written as these stories.

The first is the least pleasant to consider--that an adult has that poor a grasp of grammar, syntax, logic, maturity, empathy, etc.  It's like watching the tryouts for American Idol.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  The ones that are uncomfortable to watch because that poor simple soul has come out of his/her short life with the delusion that they can sing.

No one should ever stop writing, but as adults we should be able to recognize our failings and, if we have the will and the determination, to work to correct them.  It's much easier for someone with poor grammar to learn to write using correct English than it is for someone who is tone deaf to learn to sing on key.

The second is completely understandable--that the author is not a native English speaker and has a poor grasp of sentence structure, vocabulary, grammar, phrasing, cultural nuances, etc.  In this case, the author should tap into the worldwide community of writers available on the web and cultivate a friendship with native English speaking writers.  Once that friendship is cultivated it is a simple matter to ask for help in smoothing out those rough spots to make a story considerably more comprehensible.

The third is the most likely--that the author is actually a child.

I don't mind children submitting to Flash Fiction Online.  I really don't.  It shows a tremendous amount of pluck and courage.   Sheesh!  It's terrifying for many adult authors to submit stories and face rejection.

What I DO mind is when that child submits under the guise of being an adult.

Don't lie to me.  Just don't.  I don't like an unreliable narrator, and I don't like a lying author.

We've never published a story written by a child, because we have yet to receive a submission from a child that is written with the professional poise and grace and understanding of an adult author.  One came close.  Only one.  And only close.

Still, as I said, I don't mind when children submit.  In fact I've often taken the time to give them feedback and to encourage them to continue writing and studying both grammar and the craft of writing.  Someday, some best-selling author is going to dedicate a novel to me because I encouraged them as a 12-year-old to keep writing and studying.

But this post isn't just about young authors.

I recently received a submission from a person who claimed to be an adult author.  I didn't believe it.  I thought certainly it must be a young author.  Very young, with very poor grammar and very poor writing skills.

But then another thought occurred to me, considering the title and theme of the work.  Perhaps it really was an adult author who was deliberately writing with poor grammar and syntax in order to make it SEEM like the writing of a child.

My reaction to that was worse than if it had actually been written by a child.

There are better ways to convey the point of view of a child than to write like one--misspellings and all.  It was awful to read.  The grammar and spelling and syntax errors were such a distraction I could not even bring myself to finish the story, and gleaned little or no information concerning what the story was actually about.

Don't make me work that hard.  Just don't.  I have a lot of stories to read.  If I have to work at it, if you don't make it as easy as slicing warm butter, you're sunk.  Just sunk.

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