[This article is part of a series by author Lin Robinson on the subject of so-called “rules” of writing. You can find the other articles here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]
To continue some examples of “taboo” writing elements that are completely “legal” and useful, I also continue to refer to the ultimate “rule book” for writing: the published literature. Your favorite books are your best guide to what can be done.
Some examples of things that send “netRumor hags” into hysterics, but don’t seem to bother great authors or readers:
Avoid Prologues — If they’re so “wrong”, why are there so many of them? They exist, and are used, because they can be a useful tool in telling a story. Like anything else, they require thoughtful use. What doesn’t? I’m one of many writers who has experienced people flipping out over a “prologue”, but no resistance after just changing the name. In my case to “Guadalajara, 10 Years Ago”. It’s not readers who flip out, of course: it’s critters and editors. And if renaming it makes it okay, then is it a real problem? Continue reading “Breaking the “Rules” Part 4 by Lin Robinson“
[This is part 3 of a series of articles by Lin Robinson featured on Indies Unlimited. For part 1, click here. For part 2, click here.]
I mentioned last time that many of the rules are actually fads. And if you are around for awhile you see them come along, build to hot intensity, then lapse as another takes the center stage of absolute conviction. The tropes below have all been hot buttons for a year or so over the past five years, and still linger around in the blogs and discussions and “12 Things That Will Damn Your Writing Career For Eternity” videos that people link to on social media. In addition to the recommended practice of checking with published books, I’m offering some quickie MythSmashers here.
Adverbs. There are actually people who will tell you to avoid them entirely. They are “lazy writing”, Avoid them with “strong” verbs. Balderdash, say I. Apart from the general, “There are no wrong words” concept, adverbs are extremely useful and do much more than switching verbs around. That’s why we have them. Same reason painters don’t stick to primary colors. Try rewriting this to use a strong verb that eliminates the need for an adverb. Continue reading “Breaking the Rules (Part 3) – by Lin Robinson”
[This is part 2 of a series of articles by Lin Robinson featured on Indies Unlimited. For part 1, click here.]
As foreshadowed in the opening column in this series, we’re going to examine the whole idea of “rules” for writing the English language, and examine how non-real rules get passed on and even amplified.
One way to look at this would be, “It you say that’s a rule, show me the rule book.” Because there isn’t one. This isn’t baseball or chess, it’s a living organ of humanity. You can whip out your Funkin’ Strunkin’ Wagnals–or better yet, a UPI stylebook–but is it such a great idea to write our novels in the style of newspapers or academic theses?
Here’s something the rule mavens don’t mention, and probably don’t even know: there are no official rules for English. Seriously. French and Spanish have official academies that issue the law for those tongues, but English doesn’t. Writers in those languages break the rules, too, but somebody could look it up if they want to be persnickety. “La Academia Real del Castellano dice que no.” “You imperialist Americaines wish to pollute the sacred Gallic tongue with your garbage Yanqui merde.” But you can’t do that in English, there is no governing body. It’s a democracy. Which means the people make the rules. The statement, “Everybody uses that word the wrong way,” doesn’t really make any sense in English. If people use it different, we change the dictionaries. It’s an organic, evolutionary process. That’s not a call for anarchy: there are grammar books (most of which agree with each other). But is grammar the main issue here? There is no grammatical rule against using adverbs or passive voice. They are just styles, not rules at all. Continue reading “Breaking the Rules (part 2) by Lin Robinson”
I’ll admit it’s contradictory. This is the first of a series of blog posts on the internet telling you the best way to keep your artistic integrity and sanity as a writer is to ignore all the lame advice you get from internet blogs. I can live with the irony if you can.
The woods are full of the advice I’m talking about. And not just the online neck of the woods either: all those books and seminars and webinars and conferences and retreats and coaches/advisors/mentors/gurus. All full of this stuff you just better not do. Much of it can be discounted because they are just rumors, passed on third or fourth hand by people trying to puff up their blogs and pretend they know diddly about writing. Which a glance at their profiles generally shows they don’t. Continue reading “Breaking the Rules (part 1) – by Lin Robinson”