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Tuesday, November 23, 2010
7:05 PM | Posted by Re-posted by Jolly Roger | | Edit Post
- Slavishly, ruthlessly, and decisively remove ALL adverbs
- Write lean
- Follow every single writing rule on every single writing blog by every single writing expert
It's easy to forget that the current rules for writing are the ones that are in vogue NOW, at this particular moment in time. These haven't always been the rules, and it's a pretty good bet they won't always BE the rules.
Even the title I used is a slave to the current "rule" for blog titles: Always use a number. Catchy titles don't work. I suspect this rule will change as soon as everyone adopts it, because if everyone does it, it won't be unique or eye-catching anymore. The new rule will be "Never use a number in your title", and then it will change back when some subversive type decides to break that particular writing regulation.
I understand the allure of writing rules, because it creates the illusion that if you just follow them, without question, you can stay on the straight-and-narrow path to publication without suffering any of the pitfalls or heartbreak everyone else is enduring.
But if there were only one way to tell a story, we wouldn't need storytellers. Anyone could plug the elements that interest them into the Instamatic Easy Bake Story Machine, and their book would pop out in minutes, perfectly conforming to the one-size-fits-all storytelling recipe.
That's how we wrote essays in school, right? You needed an opening paragraph to say what you're gonna say, and a closing paragraph saying what you just said, and then a couple paragraphs in the middle to say what you have to say. You just picked a topic and followed these rules and you were done in no time at all.
The obvious complaint about rules is how it makes everything feel regimented, with little room for experimentation, or even creativity. The bigger problem is it tends to blandify or homogenize the writing, obliterating anything that smacks of an original voice. It's as if the writer is always self-consciously asking, "Am I doing this right?", which doesn't leave a lot of room for fresh storytelling.
At that point, it doesn't matter whose name is on the cover because there is nothing to distinguish one author from another. It would be easier to title it "A Story by A Writer".
Not surprisingly, the "rules" often conflict with each other.
For example, the "Write Lean" rule appeals to a reader too busy to enjoy elegant or evocative prose, so a story has to be fast-paced, action-packed, and grab-em-by-the-throat compelling. Yet the "Adverbs Not Welcome Here" rule is designed to immerse the reader in a story, giving them a richer, multi-sensory experience that the previous generation's "telling" style cannot.
So speed things up with one rule, and slow them down with another. It's no wonder that writers go completely bonkers.
Just to be clear, I do understand the need for law and order when it comes to writing. My ranting against the multitude of rules is because they too often inhibit my creative impulses, or make me second-guess the words that do emerge.
However, I also believe in amendments, and repeals, and other things that clarify the reason for the rules of writing. They are there to serve the story, not be an impediment to it. They should make things better, not create a new form of pandemonium.
If not, it would make more sense to spend our time making up rules rather than stories.
So what makes your writing YOURS? How is it different from the other stories out there? What made you decide you had to write THIS story? Which writing rule is your favorite one to break?
Labels: DRD Dealings (Donna)