Saturday, 18 July 2009

The Rules and why you should ignore them

I read a lot of blogs by writers and editors, not to mention writers' forums. In this isolated life it's a good way to feel connected and as long as you let it all slide off your back does no harm at all. (Note: this isn't true of everybody - some people can't join a website without ending up in a fight with someone and seem to thrive on it. But I've always believed arguing on the internet is a bit like taking part in the Special Olympics; even if you win you're still mentally challenged.)

One thing bloggers seem to be particularly fond of is preaching about the Rules; particularly published writers and editors who see it as their mission to educated the Ignorant Unpublished. Not only is this arrogant in the extreme it's pretty self defeating. No one likes to be preached at, so all it's likely to do is reduce your readership. Those who care about getting it right will find their own way, the rest aren't serious and won't take it to heart anyway.

But who's to say what the Rules are? The adverb debate continues to rage on various writers' boards and blogs. This is such a circular argument it astonishes me how many intelligent individuals keep getting drawn into it. And at heart all it reveals is their own gargantuan ego: Do it my way, everything else is wrong. Yes, I know J K Rowling has adverbs but she's published and therefore a Great Writer and exempt from the Rules which only apply to lesser mortals like YOU.

The sad part is they alone are blind to it.

I watched Tracy Baines' brilliant interview with Agent Peter Cox this week and was struck by something pertinent that he said in the last segment about passion being the only thing that really matters. People get too bogged down, nitpicking over the Rules and ticking the boxes, they lose sight of the bigger picture.

I agree with this view. Your story should move the reader, transport them to another time and place, let them see and feel what the characters are living. Nobody picks up a book to count how many adverbs are in it. If the use of language supports the story, it doesn't matter how long/short it is, how many adverbs it has, how many full stops or semi-colons or anything. No one gives a shit. Make them forget their own lives for half an hour and you're winning. Reading is entertainment, after all.

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