Paul.E.Bailey’s World – Living the Dream Part 9 (Terminology)

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.

20 thoughts on “Paul.E.Bailey’s World – Living the Dream Part 9 (Terminology)

  1. I agree with the ladies above. You don’t want it to read like a sailing manual so I think just showing a general knowledge is sufficient. Nothing turns off a reader like having to Google a bunch of terms so they know own what the fudge is going on. Lol
    I’m sure your publisher will agree.
    Also I feel youve done an excellent job with the apocalypse story. I glaze over is people start using to many military terms. Not sure why, but I didn’t when reading your story. So it’s a win. You don’t want to over think things to much. We have faith in ya dude!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve pretty much hit it spot on there. I want to use terminology so it doesn’t read like the work of a totally clueless fuckwit, but I want to keep it easy for the layman to understand. I want to appeal to a wide audience and not just those with a vested interest in sailing. I’d rather alienate a few of the latter than a whole bunch of the former. Like you, I’ve been turned off stories because there’s been an overuse of technical jargon

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve decided to write my comment of advice before I read what others have left in the comment box. So, here goes. First, I have to issue the disclosure that I am not an agent and have never read/heard an agent’s take on this issue. So, disclosure out of the way, here’s my opinion: Submit now, before you give yourself any more room for self doubt.

    And now here’s my reasoning for my advice:

    1) While agents will always prefer an MS to come to them nigh on perfect, there will sometimes be things like this that need a professional polish. So I honestly don’t think any good agent would decline your MS because of pool nautical terminology.

    2) Having the wrong terminology is a totally different issue than having a faulty understanding/assumption of how a technology works. If *that* were your issue, my advice would be different. In other words, the story still works logically even if the terminology is a bit off. In other words, I think this sounds like more of a cosmetic issue that will be easily fixed.

    3) Thinking as a reader and how I’ve felt reading books, I will most certainly *notice* when an author is clearly not an expert on a subject that I may know a lot about, but it has never stopped me from enjoying the book. I’ve merely noted the error to myself, shrugged, and proceeded to enjoy the story.

    So, there you have it. You are a fabulously gifted writer, Paul, and you need to get this MS out now! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your input 🙂 Apologies for only just getting back to you on it. I’ve had a busy few days. I do agree with you in the main, but I think getting some of the more glaring errors seen to would be a good idea. I don’t want it to be an orgy of technical jargon because that can put readers off and I’ll end up tailoring it for the nautically savvy whilst alienating the general readers; something I really don’t want to do. I need to find a way of striking a balance between the two

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my gracious, don’t apologize! It sometimes takes me days to get back to being caught up on the social aspects of blogging (which, to be fair, is a big aspect of blogging). And that is a good point about striking a balance between generalizing the content and making it technical.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s taking an inordinately long time for me to get round to things of late. Concentration (a lack thereof) is perhaps the main reason. Too much else going on in the old thinking box. It was Kira who alluded to striking the balance and I find it impossible to disagree with. I need to make the story user friendly and not a thesaurus of technical jargon

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a worthwhile post introducing an area I know little about. I would have thought that what you’ve written is ok to send off to agents without consulting specialists. Your attention to detail is good…and I’m sure that’s already rendered what you’ve written up to standard, terminology wise. Agents will be more interested in your story telling, character building, ability to engage the reader and handle a plot, than specific wording. I think you are probably over thinking it and would suggest you have more faith in your writing abilities. You are a brilliant writer! Please don’t zone in too much on things that really are extraneous to how a book is usually evaluated. As you know I’m not a fiction writer myself but I offer this advice as someone who has good instinctual senses about things. I hope this helps 🙂 and good luck! 😊


  4. First off, I think where apocalypse was concerned it read like Ryan’s view most of the time and he wouldn’t have known much of anything about military specifics so the general this is what we see descriptions were fine – you didn’t delve into being surrounded by military characters and their viewpoints and motivations amongst themselves etc etc Secondly as far as your novel goes, I would fix as much as you can/streamline your terminology as best you can first (if nothing else at least have the same terms used consistently throughout) so as not to confuse your potential publisher in the first Instance and then if and when you win a contract ask their advice or direction about editing terminology at that time. Dunno if that’s the right way, just seems appropriate to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not overly concerned as far as Apocalypse Story is concerned. It’s an apocalypse survival story, not an army story so terminology in that is sort of a moot point.
      In saying that, where Revenge is concerned, as much as I want the terminology to be accurate I also don’t want to make it something that’s absolutely littered with jargon that your layman won’t understand. I want the story to appeal to everyone and not just those with a vested interest in sailing. If anything I would like to keep the terminology as rudimentary as possible but without sounding like it was written by a child. I’d sooner alienate one sailing buff who didn’t like the terms used than one hundred laymen who didn’t understand a word I was saying. I want to find a balance if I can. Many would be confused enough simply by ship classes (brigs, brigantines, schooners, men of war, etc) without me going on to explain every individual part of the vessel. I would perhaps consider at the start of the novel a series of little diagrams of vessel types to give people an idea of what’s being talked about and thus eradicating the need to bang on incessantly about the vital stats. I can’t imagine such a suggestion getting rebuffed

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup didn’t think you were too concerned about apocalypse- just brought it up for comparison since you mentioned it 🙂 That makes sense… not like novels haven’t printed maps etc inside covers etc before to illustrate… actually thought about you a couple nights ago… we were watching The Wild Life with the kids because my mum sent it to us (it’s a Robinson Caruso story told from the view point of animals) and hubs actually stopped and fast forwarded to point out that the pirate captain looked off the wrong side of the ship when he was told something was off the starboard bough… I was like OMG dear, I don’t give a fuck! But that’s an ex sailor for ya… can’t take it out of his blood I suppose 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Clive Cussler novels often feature little animations or maps, usually at the start of each part of the story (they invariably go into three parts). I think mini diagrams of the more heavily featured vessels at the start and then maps or whatever before the next part of the story (it’s split into three parts such is the length).
        You’ve gotta love people who bang on about shit you literally are not interested in at all. I’m a fucker for it. Once I get on a subject I’ll verbally kick the arse out of it

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I think it might be a good substitute for terminology overuse that might otherwise put off layman readers. That said, I do still want to tidy up terminology that I might have gotten wrong along the way

        Liked by 1 person

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