Welcome to the latest addition to my Living the Dream series; delving into all things literary in my life.
The topic on this occasion is something that has recently been causing me a touch of concern. You see, the story that I plan to send off to publishers via agents, The Escapades of William Hart: Revenge on the Spanish Main, is a story that’s a minefield of terminology as it’s largely nautical in theme. You can’t have a story that’s largely nautical in theme and avoid nautical terminology.
I’ve done my best to steer away from too much terminology and zero in more on the adventure and character building aspects because my knowledge of all things nautical is nigh on zero. I have researched it; I wouldn’t be much of a writer if I didn’t; but the terminology used is somewhat basic and there are areas where you might expect to see some and I’ve found ways to completely miss it out altogether.
Initially, I thought this might be a good idea, but I’m concerned now that people with an interest in all things nautical will read my story and quickly see me for the charlatan I am in terms of knowing naff all about sailing, oceangoing vessels and the jobs crewmembers had. The research I did wielded somewhat contradictory results. Some articles told me one thing while others told me something else. Terminology in the early eighteenth century was different to what it is now and there were roles on vessels that no longer exist or have changed names completely. I’ve done my best to go with old money terminology (I use “larboard” instead of “port” for example) as it seemed the right way to do it, but I know that I’ve gone wrong and in many, many places.
At this juncture I’m totally stuck. I really don’t know what to do. Do I send the story off to agents and tell them about the nautical terminology in the hope they might be able to put me onto a specialist in that field or do I approach somebody who has good eighteenth century sailing knowledge first and let them take a look? The problem with the latter is that I don’t know anybody who has good eighteenth century sailing knowledge. If I find somebody through internet searches will they expect some sort of payment? I’m on my arse broke. I can’t afford to pay anybody for something like that. I’m a jobless bum (though working hard to correct that).
As you are no doubt aware by this stage, it’s something that’s causing me a level of distress. I really don’t know what to do about it. I’m desperate to get Revenge sent away for the perusal of agents. I finished the latest edit several months ago. If it needs another edit to address the terminology issue then I want to get onto that as soon as possible. I’m wondering if to research it again and see if I can’t solve the issue myself. The story itself is how I want it to be so there are no edits needed as far as that goes. It’s just this damned terminology.
I initially added sword fighting terminology to the original edit too. Then I made the sensible decision to remove it because I read it back and it was just confusing in every conceivable way. No average Joe would have had a clue what I was talking about. So I took it out and added more rudimentary descriptors to the things people did during sword fights and it read absolutely fine. Perhaps it’s because of that I thought I might be able to get away with doing the same as far as sailing goes. I’m sure those who aren’t savvy in sailing terms would read it and think it’s all good, but I know that there’ll be reviewers out there who’ll see how little knowledge I have about sailing and then proceed to rip me to shreds because I had the front to think I could write a sailing themed novel and get away with it (even though I insist the theme is adventure more than sailing).
It’s made me conscientious about other things I’ve written since. In A Survivor’s Apocalypse Story there’s a not inconsiderate amount of military inclusion and I don’t have the first clue about rankings or anything like that so I avoid going too much into it. I refer to them as more of an aside rather than an integral part of the story even in parts where they are quite integral and the avoidance of terminology is at the heart of that. Why do I do this to myself? It just seems that I’m sort of setting myself up for a fall all the time by including things that I know very little about.
Having said that, Apocalypse Story has been received very well by those who have read it so am I just being overly self-critical? Am I placing too much importance in this infernal terminology? Are people generally like me and place more value in the quality of the story itself rather than little details that might be a bit off-centre?
Regardless, I don’t think I can get away with it where Revenge is concerned. I have a reading audience of maybe ten people here on WordPress so I can perhaps afford to let the creativity flow and ignore the little details. When I get Revenge out there for the world to see there’s going to be a megaton more eyes on my work and there’ll be some extremely critical eyes in amongst them. Mistakes can be glossed over here on WordPress, but they’ll probably break me out there. I’m at the mercy of all the smart arses who love to do nothing but pour scorn on the hard work of others.
I know that my time for procrastination over this issue is running short. I need to get Revenge out there soon before I start talking myself out of it. I’m not working as hard as I have just for it to end up in a dark corner of my external hard drive never to be seen again. If I did that then the last eighteen months or so would have been literally for nothing. This blog, the proof-readers, the brainstorming of new ideas, the new stories I’ve created…all of it for nothing. I owe myself and what I do more respect.
So my lovely fellow bloggers; what is your advice? Do I put my faith in what I have despite its shortcomings regarding terminology or should I look to fix the issue first? If I should do the latter then how should I go about it? If this sounds like a cry for help then I’m doing my job properly because that’s exactly what it is. Help me!
Have you had issues with terminology in your writing? What is your take on my present predicament? Am I overthinking it or do I have a right to be concerned? Comments (on this occasion especially) will be appreciated on a scale hitherto unknown to science so please leave your thoughts below and I’ll soon get back to you. Thank you for reading.