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GREAT STORY NO EXCUSE FOR BAD WRITING

February 10, 2016

Time to get on a rant here. The one mantra I hear over and over again that gets under my skin is when people say that if the story is good, one can get away with “breaking the rules.” In other words, mediocre or bad writing is okay as long as you sell a million books. You know, “It’s the story that counts?”

Haven’t we all heard that before? A writer pitches their work and finds some agent that goes head-over-heels for their story. They write like crap, but the story is so great they (or the publisher’s editors) let them get away with it.

Folks, I sure get tired of seeing it in print. Like all the time!

LIVE BY EXAMPLE?

When giving advice to new writers, how many times have you heard others say to go to your favorite authors and see by example. See how they write and look at how they do things. Follow their leads.

Has anyone stopped to think that maybe they’re doing it wrong?

Has anyone stopped to think that though they may be creating those killer stories you love so much, maybe they’re making them harder for you to read than they need be?

Writing by example isn’t always the best way.

THERE ARE REASONS FOR RULES

There are reasons for rules of writing. Not only are there rules of grammar, but syntax and style. The whole point is to make the writing flow and easier for the reader. The idea is for the text to make better sense and to make reading pleasure instead of pain.

That’s the point of rules.

Rules didn’t just come out of a vacuum, but from centuries of trial and error.

I can only speak for myself, but I’ve had over five decades to read, study and come to understand what works. What I’ve found makes for a more pleasurable and easy reading experience. I’ve found the rules that work best for me. I’ve also seen that those exact same rules work for a lot of other people as well. So, in other words, it’s not just me.

I must point out here that this has nothing to do with my personal preference for third-person over first-person point of view. Great writing isn’t about which point of view you choose, it’s about how you write them. The same rules apply regardless.

POPULAR AUTHORS THAT ALWAYS GET COMPLAINTS ABOUT THEIR WRITING

I can’t begin to count how many very popular authors have best-selling novels and series that are at the top of the list for being crappy writers. They happen to hit a hot button with a market, yet they can’t write themselves out of a paper bag, to use a well-worn cliché. They plain suck at style, syntax and grammar. Yet, they’ve found that golden hot button, and keep churning out crap and get away with it. They have no integrity because they don’t need it. With all those sales, there’s nobody to tell them no, or no incentive for them to learn to write proper.

BREAKING THE RULES VERSUS RIGIDITY

Some say that strictly following the rules sucks the life out of a story. In other words, bend the rules once in a while to throw some variety into the mix and make things less rigid and boring.

How about doing all that with the story itself, and not the writing. Duh!

Leave the lazy excuses at home and make the writing tight and easy and worry about breaking any rules in the story, like mixing genres, or having your character doing something unusual. Don’t let the writing get in the way of the story!

INTEGRITY IS EVERYTHING

To me, writing is all about making the reading experience a pleasure, not a burden. While most readers will never consciously know the difference, as a writer, I will. I’ll know the difference between doing it right and doing it half-assed and lazy.

My job is to write to the best of my ability and to use the rules of writing and give the reader the cleanest copy I can possibly give them. I want them to have the easiest read, not the hardest.

The story is everything, but there’s not much sense giving them a story if the writing is crap.

Happy writing!

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