Forget the Writing Rules

If I knew every book I picked up would be as fascinating as the unpublished novel I just finished, I’d live each day with a readiness for the quiet moments when I could get back to the world between the pages.
Most books I read are not so fascinating. Many are poorly written. Or well-written with characters whose lives I could care less about. Or full of self-indulgent description that swamps the plot. Or sporting an affected difficultness that is intended to signal to the reader, hey, look how smart I am! Or written with realism’s lack of style that sags into BORINGNESS.
All of these disappointing novels were traditionally published. The agent-editor-publisher offers no guarantee I will be seduced into the story of the novel.
This novel—not yet published, never to be published, I don’t know the answer—beguiled. It had no dialogue. The plot was created by a patchwork of many, many vignettes that spanned centuries and continents. The story was “told.” An unidentified omniscient narrator presided and, every once in a while, mentioned the plot line was about to bend onto a new path. The description was so dense you needed a machete to hack through it.
Did I mention it had no dialogue? You understand no dialogue means no scenes, right?
And yet it fascinated.
My take away? Forget the “writing rules” (e.g. no unidentified narrators; the plot must pull us through the story; scene, scene, scene). Find your style, understand what you’re doing, know why you’re doing it. Then work it to the nth degree, take it to the utmost extreme. Work it, own it, revel in it, trust it, celebrate it. If you’re good enough at it, the reader will sigh with relief at the jewel she’s holding in her hands.

Remember: You Cain’t Do Nothing with Love

dialogue, finding your voice, novel, scene, style, traditional publishing, writing rules

Comments (2)

  • “Forget the rules” is spot on. I’ve seen so many novels meticulously crafted from rule books like “The Writer’s Journey” that fall incredibly flat. I believe it is because the writers have nothing significant or unique to say. They follow a publishing industry recipe book for whatever genre, and the lap dog critics rave over tripe. Dip it in flour and fry it, and it sells. Of course then there is that so-called “literary” group whose works indulge us with a water-boarding of prose, yet whose works in the end have the ring of a cracked bell. The editors, agents, critics and the entire publishing industry are like that little man behind the curtain, pumping madly to produce the great and powerful facade of traditional publishing. They send us scurrying to find the broom, when in fact, we need to keep pushing those unique manuscripts under the curtain until someone with a real eye for good writing spots one.

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