Writing Regionally

It often feels like our country is getting smaller. But, we aren’t at a point yet where we’re a homogeneous society. And, honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever get there. After taking a year off to drive around the country a while back, I can tell you that diversity in language is alive and well in the USA.

But what does that mean for writers?

WRECKLESS is a regional book although I’ve refrained from saying exactly where it’s set. I’ve seen lots of  “middle America” reference and people from states as far east as Ohio and as far west as along the Rockies saying they 100% identified with the lifestyle Bridget and Jake are growing up in.

Which is great.

But, there’s a flip side to that… Typos That Aren’t Typos.

I should start (for those of you who didn’t see this post) to just summarize how this book gets ready to go.

After the book was written, revised, self-edited, critiqued by at least 3 people, I then re-revised and re-edited it, then it went to a specific CP who focused on edits. Then I reworked it and checked them myself again. Then it goes to the editor. I do the edits from the editor then it goes to two proofreaders. Then I listen to the entire book out loud on a computer program that helps me catch any of the final little things that may have some how slipped through.

I am not saying this book is perfect and error free. Humans (read: Bria) were involved. Perfection isn’t possible. But, I do like to ensure my readers are getting the best possible product I could give them — that I did not say, “Oh, this is good enough.”

Again, not error free. But, my goal is to be as clean as possible.

So, when a reader sends me an email with a list of typos or errors, I take it very seriously.

But, unfortunately when you write regionally this isn’t as cut and dry as you’d think.

One of the reasons I relied on having CPs from different areas for this book was to ensure that my book had a strong regional flavor while still making sense to everyone.

One example of this is that Bridget puts on “tennies” to go out. Half of the readers didn’t know what those were. Even in context it felt weird. I changed it to tennis shoes and everyone felt comfortable with that.

When I talk to my mom, I still say tennies. 🙂

We did this in several places, cleaning up, rewording, or just plain reworking a paragraph to avoid using a word that was too regional without sacrificing it to a word that would seem out of place to someone who felt the book was close to home. For example, I didn’t change “tennies” to “Nikes.”

I’ve thought about making a blog of all the errors-that-aren’t I’ve received because it would be interesting linguistically (for example, in some places people say “quarter of” in some “quarter till” and in some it’s interchangeable… I’ve gotten this one several times and not just in my regional book), but I was afraid that anyone who read the blog and had sent me something (or wrote about it in a review) might think I was talking about them. I wanted to avoid making anyone feel that way.

So, how do you “win” – how do you write a manuscript that everyone will think is clean? Especially if it’s really regional?

The answer I came up with: You don’t. You stay true to your character just like you would in any other part of the character’s behavior and you hope for the best. Some people won’t notice because they recognize their own speech in it. Some will notice and understand. Some will notice and assume it’s wrong. But, the thing is, that’s how writing works. Not just with the words you write, but with your setting and descriptions and actions and… well everything.

That’s part of publishing – understanding that people are going to read your book and judge it by their own criteria. Period.

The only thing you can do is respect your work and your readers by making  sure you get things as correct as possible and then as clean as possible and then send your story out into the world.

But that still doesn’t mean it’s perfect. 🙂

kk,
Bria

Comments

  1. It’s a question of balance, right? Enough regionality that the characters are authentic, but not confusing. As a Canadian author, I find the question of addressing it explicitly an interesting one – do I need to explain my use of colour vs. color? I lean towards not, but I don’t mind when other authors do. 🙂

  2. I run into the same thing with historical fiction. There are words we don’t use anymore that were common in the Regency. Even better, sentence structure and syntax has changed in the last 200 years. Sometimes I edit for the modern ear, and sometimes I decide that’s how my character would have talked and accept the reviews when they come in.

    • Bria Quinlan says:

      OH those two are both great examples. And the good part is that 99% of the time if we think things through and do them right 99% of our readers are right there with us. It’s about doing it right… well, all of writing is about doing it right, right? 🙂

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