The Definitive Infinitive

I thought I was on to something when I read works from seasoned authors which included split infinitives and thought, “Ah ha! I know something you don’t, split infinitives are wrong.” Turns out I was the wrong one.

An infinitive is a two-part verb form such as ‘to walk’ or ‘to see’ or ‘to work’.  A split infinitive is when another word, usually an adverb, appears between the two words. The most well-known example is the line from Star Trek, “To boldly go.”  It could just as easily have been written “To go boldly” and the split infinitive would be avoided. For years, I thought using split infinitives was incorrect English. I was certain there was a rule against them. However, I have discovered recently this rule apparently has never been very firm.

Whenever I’m uncertain about something having to do with writing, I go to my Chicago Manual of Style. The footnote below the fourteenth edition paragraph 2.98 says the thirteenth edition regarded split infinitives under “errors and infelicities” but also called their use a “debatable error.” However, the fourteenth edition now refers to their use as a “legitimate form of expression.” It appears the split infinitive is becoming more ‘proper’ as time goes by.

So there. With regard to split infinitives, it seems I was wr–  wro–  ahm, wrong. If you are going to keep up with proper writing practices, you have to be willing to eat a little humble pie every now and then.

Good enough is good enough

A fellow writer I met on the internet and I submitted our novels to a writing contest. Her manuscript was advanced to the next level while all I got was a form rejection notice. It led me to ask myself, “What did I do wrong?”

Like every other writer, I get lots of rejections from agents and editors. Many of those rejections leave me asking myself, “What did I do wrong?” From a rational standpoint, I know it’s a very dysfunctional way to think, but I still catch myself doing it sometimes. Such thinking has led me to overwrite my piece, actually making it worse than before. I’m trying to write something so well, no one will be able to reject it. That only leads to neurosis.

Interestingly, an agent she previously submitted the same work to sent her a rejection letter detailing the reasons her manuscript was not ready for publication, and even told her she needed to develop her writing skills further. In a similar experience, I submitted a short story to one publisher and they responded with a detailed explanation of how my main character did not work.  The next market I submitted it to accepted the piece. My story even got a call out from a reviewer.

The lesson: It’s impossible to write a piece so perfect it will please everyone. Writing is subjective. There are a couple novel series circulating that are as well known for being written poorly as they are for making millions. Go figure. There’s only one reasonable thing to do. Make sure your writing is good rather than perfect, then send it out. If you wait for a perfect manuscript, you will never get done.