Friday, 29 May 2009

The Rules of Writing

Have you ever noticed how much time and energy people waste on writers' boards debating the "rules" of what constitutes good/bad writing or more importantly acceptable/unacceptable to publishers?
As a wide-eyed newbie I soaked it all up like a sponge at first, but inevitably you reach a point where you're getting conflicting advice.

Here are a few I've heard along the way:

Adult fiction should be 80k words long.

Changing POV mid-chapter will get you rejected.

Using adverbs is a sign of sloppy writing.

On the word length question, I have it on very good authority - I'm talking editor at a major publishing house - that a story is as long as it needs to be. If they love your story they couldn't give a tinker's cuss for the word length. So, reading between the lines if you're rejected on the basis of word length it's just another way of saying your writing isn't up to scratch.

The fact is - and this has taken me a while to realise - there are no rules. If you tell a good story well, you can get away with just about anything. It's all in the writing, and don't let anyone tell you different.

As an illustration, here is another great blog from The Book Deal to prove my point.


Tracy said...

Ruleas are made to be broken.
I think you're right that some writers become obsessed with the rules so much so it seems to stifle their creativity and makes them quite blinkered, especially when it comes to critiquing others on peer review sites.

I think it's important to know the rules but learn how to adapt them to the individual story and the writer's individual voice.

How's the revision going - have you learned lots of new things that have opened your eyes to your writing?

Sandra Patterson said...

Cheers, Tracy!
Yes! The revision is a complete overhaul and is likely to take months. It has been humbling to revisit the book and realise how far short of perfection it falls! Part of me is embarrassed I ever sent it out, but what's great is I think I know how to make it better so yes, I am enjoying it on the whole and learning a lot. What I end up with will be a very different book, and (hopefully) a lot better. :-)

Tracy said...

Good luck with it all. And from what I can tell your story is typical of most authors revision wise. If you can think of any handy tips and pointers please let me know.