9 Comments

Many Rules, One Law


Sputnitsa recently wrote: “The Golden Rule (about writing) is there are no rules.

I disagreed (and still do), and said so.

That doesn’t mean that she is wrong. Only that I disagree. Yes, I know you can read the caption under the screaming cat.

Irony is ironic.

Sometimes.

But I digressed. I should stop doing that because it is very annoying.

That’s one of the rules of writing, stay focused.

Another one is avoid infodumps.

Avoid adverbs is another.

Not to mention rules about grammar, syntax and the like.

Writing has a lot of rules and the first inclination of any neophyte writer (moi) is to break them, or worse, ignore them.

Rules? Who needs them?

You (and I) need them. But we need more than just know them, we need to master them.

Because rules are meant to be broken.

Not only that, they are meant to be followed, twisted, stretched and ignored, all at the same time. But you can not do that if you don’t master them first.

Which is a slow and painful process consisting of a lot of writing and rewriting plus endless reviews and Betas.

But if you ARE a writer you must learn the rules because while writing has many rules (none written in stone, as that would be impractical to say the least) and no bright lines to speak off (but spaces come in handy) it does have one Law.

Just write!

And now some music from Oceanlab-Satellite:

9 comments on “Many Rules, One Law

  1. I like the screaming cat. 🙂

    And as for the rules, I’ll say that rules change like fashion, with grammar perhaps being the greatest stickler and maybe the least fickle over time. And rules that writers follow from their gut–in other words, patterns, maybe–tend to mark their style… So different rules for different folks, maybe, with the goal of these rules, at least, cleaving unto a similar goal: enthrall the reader. 🙂

    And, of course, the age old rule: attach a cat poster with an hilarious caption 🙂 So, success on those fronts for you on this blog post. 🙂

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  2. Rules – like laws, morals and politicians – can be ignored from time to time, but ignoring them completely and without good reason leads to bad writing. Read badly written books by all means (Stephanie Meyer and Dan Brown are obliging enough to provide good examples), but don’t think that an editor won’t pull you up on a misused tense or bad grammar. The rules are different for published authors it seems…

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  3. Ralfast,

    I agree with Sput that every writer has their own way of doing things. Their own style. There are no “absolute rules”. If so, we’d all write the same way and that would be utterly boring.

    I agree with you that one must know and understand the rules before breaking them.

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  4. I agree with bigwords88. In fact I could go further and say that in my experience the (interweb) people who tend to be the most vocal and resistant to there being any rules or craft to writing always seem to be largely unpublished. They also posses the counterproductive habit of using literary geniuses as examples of rule breaking in publication; without having the wit to realise the irony in that. I am happy to be totally judgmental and say that those who don’t believe in ‘the rules’ are often just too damn lazy to want to work hard at their craft and find it easier to bang on about such vagaries as creative freedom or creative vision and hope that will see them clear to fame and fortune. Ha. I is teh grumpy this morning.:D

    However, having said that I think the term ‘rules’ isn’t too helpful and ‘guidelines’ might be better. Also, the rules are there to help not constrain. They’re to help learn the craft. Of course, there always needs to be the ‘ignore the rules’ clause and the ‘what works for you works’ clause, but like ralfast says you really need to master the basic rules first. Truth of the matter is that most of the ‘rules of writing’ have been formalised over the years, by teachers, editors and experienced writers to answer the same questions and issues that new and inexperienced writers often stumble over when they take those first few tentative steps into the lifelong learning process that is writing. Perhaps instead of the rules of writing they should be called the FAQ of writing.

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    • I have to go with Lee on this one. Seems the divide is somewhat gender base although one has to be careful when jumping to conclusions. I use the term “rule” because it provides a middle ground “law” (something that should not be broken without costs) and “guidelines” which seem as something you can follow only if you want to.

      Great thoughts everyone, keep them coming.

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  5. Yes, Ralfast, you should be careful to jump to conclusions. Because I happen to also agree with BigWords and Lee. I said I didn’t believe there were “absolute rules”. Lee later said, “However, having said that I think the term ‘rules’ isn’t too helpful and ‘guidelines’ might be better. Also, the rules are there to help not constrain. They’re to help learn the craft.”

    Exactly! Which is why I added that I agreed with *you* that one must truly be knowledgeable about rules and truly understand why they were put there in the first place, before one is to ever even consider breaking them. Those might be extremely rare instances, but they do exist. Which is why I said I don’t believe in “absolute rules”- rules that MUST be followed 100% of the time.

    I have come across the very same lazy writers that Lee mentioned, and understand exactly what he is talking about.

    I agreed with Sputnitsa by saying that every writer has their own way of doing things, their own style, and that it would be boring if everyone wrote the same way. Even if I don’t like them all, I am thankful that there are such diverse writers out there.

    Nowhere did I say that one should go about breaking rules or established guidelines. In fact, I’ve been called a tough(but kind) beta. You’d better believe if someone sends me work that has bad grammar, saidisms, overuse of adverbs, headhopping, passive sentences, telling where it would be better to show…that I point these things out.

    But I never try to change their writing *style* to resemble mine.

    Sorry if this comment is so longwinded. I just wanted to clarify my position.

    Thanks to all for the interesting discussion.

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  6. p.s. I hope, “Yes, Ralfast, you should be careful to jump to conclusions”, didn’t sound snarky. I wrote it pre-coffee. 😉

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    • Oh it was snarky as Hell! 🙂 But I accept your coffee fueled apologies. Although clear thoughts and staunch defenses of positions (without insulting the blog owner of course) are always welcomed.

      Keep them coming!

      😀

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  7. Heh. As if I’d ever insult my blog writing bud. 🙂

    *hands Ralfast some Lindt chocolate truffles*

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