Monday, June 13, 2011

Hang the Rules!!! .... Mostly

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.

Until now.

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?


Keriann Greaney Martin said...

NOOOOO!! Aww, I feel awful for making you feel that way :(. Especially my BFF. I'm a grammar Nazi, I swear. (I know, I'm doing the "it's not you, it's me" thing.) Grammar is easy to fix. I hope you don't think all my notes mean I didn't like it! *shuffles around, feeling bad* *sigh*. You're my inspiration for even THINKING I could write a novel. I look up to you, lady. You're AWESOME. I'm constantly in awe by your storytelling and creativity (especially the romantic ones, *swoons*). Don't chuck this one out the window!! Maybe this extra work means you'll make it the best one ever. I BELIEVE IN YOU.


L. T. Host said...

Oh, Keri! Now I feel awful for making you feel awful. I probably sound all angsty about it but I really am thankful-- you've done something not many people would bother to do, and woken me up to realizing I do need to think about that stuff again. That it's NOT just automatic. That it IS work, and I do need to remember that.

Don't ever feel bad for telling me like it is and calling me on being lazy/forgetful! I wouldn't be the writer I am without you, lady.

Davin Malasarn said...

Well, I really hope you don't feel too bad. The fact that you caught this during the revision and critique stage is a good thing, right? I forget the rules all the time. Whenever I focus on one, it seems like I forget three others. But I think that's one of the hard things about writing. It's like a decathlon, and sometimes some events go well while others flub. The goal is to be consistent enough to be strong in every event.

K. Marie Criddle said...

This is FABULOUS to remember, I agree! Rules are there for a good reason, but the freedom to break them is just as necessary. Now I feel bad for not catching as much as Keri did (but just like her, I'm loving it so far, too!) Where are these said rule books?? Looks like I need a refresher!

Queen 'Bina said...

I'm still trying to figure out the rules myself. The more I learn, the more I know how little I know and I have to make myself write anyway. Or is it anywayS? I don't know. But now I know that I don't know. I guess that's one more for me to google.