To Grammarly or Not to Grammarly

A few weeks ago I had a question about Grammarly sent to my Inbox. For anyone who has never tried it, Grammarly is an online grammar checking, spell checking, and plagiarism detection platform.

They claim that with their help you will achieve “bold, clear, mistake-free writing with Grammarly’s AI-powered writing assistant.” I wrote such a long response I thought I’d save time and use it as a blog post as well.

The question was…

“I have Grammarly on board. Yup, Grammarly is tagging me. It’s a first offense; usually excessive commas. Do I correct or not?” 

And I answered: That’s your choice completely. Personally, I don’t like Grammarly and the rest. They are algorithms, not readers. They would probably tag Charles Dickens, Jack Kerouac and Tolkien as being wrong.

Writing and art are personal creations. They are all about invention within guidelines. If everyone held themselves to a strict set of rules, nothing new would be created. Salvador Dali would have been told his clocks were wrong and joined the Bob Ross Army of Artists.

But… you do need to polish your writing. We all do, always. No writer/artist ever reaches a state of perfection where they stop improving… until they are dead. Depending on an algorithm to improve your work is like thinking you will use a crutch for life, long after the broken bone is healed.

My opinion: do it the old-fashioned way. Read, study writing, take workshops, have HONEST beta readers. I’ve done this myself for the past ten or so years and it has improved my writing a lot.

My advice is to nestle into your natural genre, study all you can on it, read everything around the genre (non-fiction and news), find readers who appreciate that genre and then claim it.

The entire process takes many years, but it is the only way I have ever seen anyone succeed other than a few one hit wonders that vanish as quickly as they headline. I published End of Mae in 2010. Nine years later I think I can say I’m a moderately successful author. In ten years I hope to have morphed into a successful author.

To clarify what I mean by “read everything around the genre:” I write speculative fiction and poetry. It’s a blend of horror and science fiction with a little fantasy mixed in sometimes. I read about demons, ghosts, supernatural occurrences, cryptids, dark matter, conspiracy theories, aliens, UFOs, cloning, artificial intelligence, bio-tech, magic craft and anything attached to these topics. I find all this on my newsfeed, nonfiction section of the library/bookstores, blogs and magazines.

When I am in the middle of a story (right now, the expanded Bitter Suites) I read nothing spec-fiction except maybe to review. I don’t want other stories sliding in my brain to color what already exists pre-ink in my mind. I might read another genre to get different perspectives, but I will avoid the genre I’m actually working in while I’m working in it.

My thoughts: devour your genre in the beginning, build a foundation of comprehension and then build your own UNIQUE city of work on that. NOTE and DISCLAIMER: These are my opinions based on my observations. Your experience and path may lead completely different directions. Author experience may not be the same in all cases. Apply with discretion.

Wow, I guess I’ve written a blog post here. Mind if I do an edited and anonymous version of this as a blog post someday?

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher and author. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award. Her latest novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist. Currently, she publishes Space and Time magazine, a 53 year old publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction. For more information visit SpaceandTimeMagazine.com or AngelaYSmith.com.
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