Anyone who knows me or has followed my blog for a while knows that my most beloved pursuit is writing. Poetry and fiction writing fills many of my days, and I relish the attempt and challenge of producing professional work.
In the desire to write better, and simply because I love it, I consistently turn to my second favourite pastime, reading great books. As with my craft, I prefer fiction over non-fiction, and never tire of immersing myself and my imagination in a good story.
But because I want to improve my ability, I’ve enjoyed some wonderful non-fiction books about the art and craft of writing. Here are a few I have read recently:
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
I have enjoyed these books, as many have, and highly recommend them as valuable, insightful tools for any writer. The last one in particular deals with the nuts and bolts of good writing: principles of composition, rules of usage, and style.
Which brings me to the point of this blog post. We have always been taught to use proper punctuation in our writing, and I continually strive to do just that. So why have certain authors decided to depart from the rules of punctuation, in particular, omitting quotation marks around dialogue? Well-known writers such as James Joyce and Cormac McCarthy didn’t use quotation marks, and an increasing number of literary authors are following them.
I am reading the novel, February, by Lisa Moore, an acclaimed Newfoundland writer, and she too has dispensed with punctuating her dialogue with quote marks. I love the book so far, am greatly impressed with her style, and have no difficulty differentiating the dialogue from the rest, but I have read some readers do have trouble with it. Cormac McCarthy said he doesn’t like seeing all the “weird little marks” on a page, and that a good writer doesn’t need them.
I also read that it is a sign of a “cool writer”, or a literary writer, to omit such punctuation. I have a suspicion, however, that if I submitted a manuscript without quotation marks around my dialogue, the editor, agent, or publisher would send it back in a jiffy, refusing to even read it. Is it only a right of the well-established to bend the rules this way?
What do you think? As a writer or as a reader, where do you stand on this issue? Does it bother you, or are you fine with it? What style do you prefer in your own writing?
Are there any books on writing you would recommend?
*All books above are linked to Amazon for review. Check them out.