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KNOW WHEN TO BEND THE RULES OR JUST BEING LAZY?

July 9, 2019

My goal, ever since starting this blog back in 2012 was to dole out writing advice and to try and help others hone their craft. With that in mind, I’ve presented many aspects of this passion, some more controversial than others.

Not surprisingly, my most popular article has been “AND”, “BUT”, THE COLON AND SEMI-COLON IN FICTION. This one always draws a lot of reaction and most recently a troll.

There are others as well.

WHY ARE THERE RULES?

Well, for one thing, rules are there to make your manuscript readable. Without a readable manuscript, no agent or publisher is going to touch it. Period.

The other thing is that without rules, no reader can read it. You’d have an incomprehensible mess.

Taking that as a given though, lets narrow that down to refined rules. Say you can put a paragraph together. Okay, so what? How about turning that into multiple paragraphs, chapters and an entire book? There’s a lot more to it, then.

To make a story readable, you have to employ certain rules to keep a person reading. Over the very few decades that stories have really been available to the mass market, the industry has discovered and refined the rules of writing that work the best to attract the widest audience.

That’s why we have rules of writing.

The whole point of presenting your work to the public, beyond writing it for pleasure, is to present it in the most palatable form to the most people possible.

That’s the key.

To do that, you need to follow certain guidelines (yeah, I mean rules) in writing to appeal to the widest audience.

In other words, I like to say, the writing shouldn’t get in the way of the story.

BENDING THE RULES

Some rules are vague, some are well established, and some are contradictory. Some change over time. Some never change.

I read a lot. I read at least a book to a book and a half a week, depending on how well written it is. The better it’s written, the faster I can read it. That right there should be a big red flag (or clue). As a writer as well as a reader, I’m always evaluating the writing.

There’s nothing more annoying than stumbling over the writing when I’m trying to enjoy a story. When the author either bends or ignores the rules of writing, the writing is getting in the way of the story. If the bending is minor, those are just bumps that can be ignored. If it’s constant, that slows things down and becomes annoying. It jerks me out of the story.

There are certain writers that are so close to perfect, if they slip up or bend a rule slightly, I don’t even notice. I devour their books, and when I get to the end of the story, I close the last page with a smile on my face and never even realize I just read something instead of absorbed it. THAT is what every book should do. THAT is what I try to teach through my articles every week.

I sometimes get feedback about how I can’t say this and can’t say that. Well, guess what?

Go ahead and bend the rules, or do whatever you want. You’re the one that has to let your fans suffer through your work. Maybe they won’t notice. Maybe they will. Maybe they’ll come away with a smile and a sigh, maybe just a smile. Maybe not.

I, personally would rather my readers not even realize they read the story, but absorbed it. That’s my goal. Whether I always succeed or not, I cannot say, but I at least try.

I personally don’t, or rarely bend the rules. If I do, I know how and when, and it’s never out of laziness. It has a specific purpose. I have yet to run into a case where I have done that (that I can remember at the moment), but I know I have once or twice in short stories, at least.

SUMMARY

Are you bending the rules because you just don’t care, you want to rebel, are lazy, or you don’t think your readers will care, either?

Is a sucker born every minute?

Or, do you think all of this is a bunch of bullshit?

I’m not here to tell you what to do. However, after over sixty years of reading, I’ve discovered what works well and what works not as well. I’ve polled other readers and got plenty of feedback to not only back me up, but also to sometimes contradict what I say. I’m not 100% right, of course. There are people that don’t abide by my beliefs. It’s too big a world for that. However, the vast majority of people I’ve polled have indicated they prefer a clean read that abides by the rules, even if they aren’t consciously aware of them.

Happy writing!

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