Some of you, who have been following us/me for a while, probably know that I am not a big fan of most of the so-called "writing rules" that float around out there, in blogs and in books on writing fiction. "Don't use adverbs." "Don't use -ing verbs." And so forth.
I've blogged about this before, though I find myself unable to find said blog posts at the moment. Basically, my philosophy when it comes to writing is this: learn the "rules" so that you can learn how and when to break them. But don't get hung up on following them.
Until now, I haven't really had a problem with my technical stuff, like grammar. Betas have always commented how strong I am in that area, and I assumed it was something that would always stick with me.
My first beta, Keri, just gave me back my most recent manuscript. She is my best friend and has read EVERYTHING I've ever written (though a few of my other crit group buddies have also had that honor/burden). Recently, she took up writing, too. And one of the first things I did when I heard that she was doing this was give her all of my "rules" books. Why? Because they *do* help, when you're first starting out writing your first novel. It's nice to keep those rules inside your head. Besides, they have good pointers in them about overall story arcs and as such, I figured they would be supremely helpful to her.
Now, I won't say I can claim this is the reason for what I'm about to say, because she has always been a strong editor/ writer/ reader. But as we sat there going through my manuscript, one of the first things she said to me, and brought up throughout, was my sentence structure. And as I'm going through her copy of the MS with her notes all over it, I'm blushing in embarrassment. Never have I had someone LINE EDIT my work so deeply. Usually, I catch that stuff in my many rounds of revisions.
This manuscript sounded fine the first 30 times I read it through. It's this 31st time, with the notes from my friend, that make me cringe and want to just chuck the whole thing out of the window. Page after page, I can't believe I actually handed this off to someone. AND FOUR OTHER PEOPLE HAVE IT LIKE THIS.
My first inclination, out of embarrassment, was to blame it on something else. It's in past tense, I want to say. I haven't written in past tense since my first book. It's historical. I haven't ever tried something so far out of my comfort zone before. But those are all excuses.
The fact is, the real reason this happened, is because I forgot The Rules. Sure, I know them. But I forgot to use them. And for this reason, among many others, it's awesome that my friend Keri is just starting to write, and has The Rules fresh in her head. She can call me on my crap and help me out. Even if I am totally humiliated that she had to fix so much, and that other people are reading it in its current craptacular state. Sigh.
Have you ever forgotten The Rules?