Friday, April 26, 2013

Secret 8

8. The great artists break all the rules, but you must master the rules before you can break them.

You came here for the secrets of writing, not necessarily for anything concerning the rules of writing. That is why I think this is a good time to mention my 14 volume set: The 19,765 Rules For Writing, 3rd Edition which is now also available as an ebook and as a searchable app, which, for those of you used to buying very reasonably priced, often free, apps, will seem amazingly expensive. It also doesn’t work very well and is complicated to install on most devices. But it does have a social connectivity element and most writers you meet at this point will pull out their phone or ipad and say “I have this ‘Rules For Writing’ app that’s actually sort of helpful when it works” in a way that will make you feel like you’d better get it too. So you will, only remembering this paragraph when you fail to get it to work properly, find that it doesn’t work properly, and then finally realize that this is, unbelievably, how it actually does work. But we are not here to discuss technology, we are here to discuss writing!

The fact that there are 19,765 rules of writing that you must master must sound a bit intimidating. Fortunately dozens of these are well known to you already, like “Capitalize the first word of each sentence” or “Do not give two characters in the same story the same name” or “Get a cat.” After these there is a slightly more challenging chunk of rules that you may or may not know, but once you read them through a few dozen times they will seem self evident, like “A prepositional phrase should never modify or refer to a noun that is being acted upon by 2 adverbs, 2 adjectives or 2 verbs unless contained in a subjective clause or in direct service of a traditional Mystery or Romance Genre plot (known as “The Rule of Two”)” Sadly when you get to the hard rules, like the rule where you have to learn Ancient Acadian, you may become distraught. You might decide to see if there isn’t maybe an abridged rules of writing that perhaps you could use instead. Happily there are tons of these. Few writers in history have been able to resist laying down all kinds of helpful rules for writing. You could probably pick your favorite writer ever, put in a little search for their rules of writing, and you’ll be all set with a compact, concise and very well written list of rules for writing. The only downside to this is that it will teach you to write exactly like that writer, except not nearly as good.

My suggestion then, if you refuse to Learn Ancient Acadian, which you really should learn because your cat will love it when you talk to him in Ancient Acadian, is to go ahead and break all the rules, willy nilly. Go for broke and figure that people’s terrible reasoning powers will kick in to your benefit. “Gosh,” Your legions of readers and critics will say “To break this many rules this author must have mastered the hell out of them!”

No comments:

Post a Comment