Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Am I the exception?

The short answer is no your aren't the exception to the rule. So how do you know if that writing advice directly applies to you and your manuscript? Odds are it does. However, there are times you may want to ignore that tip. But should you?

When it comes to writing and subjectivity there is no quick yes or no answers, but there are some things you can ask yourself to see if you should make use of that tip.

1.) Are you doing it deliberately?
If you are making a conscious decision to ignore a writing rule and you know why you are choosing to do so, you might be the exception. MIGHT. However, just because you are aware of what you are doing doesn't mean it puts you in that small percentage. Make sure you check with your critique partners as well as people who aren't familiar with your work to see if your choice works. Ask yourself if making that choice really makes your writing stronger.

2.) Does it fit your character/setting/plot/story?
Think about the rule and how it will affect your characters/setting/plot/story. Does this rule honor those things or does is seem contradictory. If the rule seems to ruin an important aspect of your story you might consider ignoring that writing advice.

A good example of this is grammar in dialogue and thoughts. Not everyone speaks properly or is grammatically correct all the time. So there may be situations where you would ignore the rules of grammar. But again, going back to number one, make sure if you break the rules, you are doing it deliberately and you know why.

3.) Is it part of your voice?
Consider the advice, and then look at the voice of your work. Try editing a section using the advice. Did your voice disappear or diminish or did your work get stronger? If it got stronger then you should definitely follow that advice but if you lost the essence of your voice then you may want to consider ignoring the rule.

4.) Are you happy with your work?
Above everything else you have to be happy with what you've written. If you don't like it, you can't expect other people to like it either. So do what feels right. Write the best story you can and don't stress too much over all the rules. You aren't going to follow every rule all the time. It's not possible. But don't blindly break the rules either. Even if you still aren't sure whether or not you are the exception (and sorry but you're still probably not), at least you are aware of what you did. Make the conscious decision to ignore that rule, and know why you need to deviate from traditional advice.

Does anyone else struggle with whether or not to follow certain pieces of writing advice? Is there a time you ignored a rule or writing advice and your work was stronger for it?

12 comments:

  1. This was perfect for me. I think I almost take up the challenge when I hear something shouldn't be done. But that isn't always the right approach.

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    1. I agree! Sometimes I see it as a challenge but many times I also see it as an uh oh, did I do that in my manuscript? Then I agonize over whether or not I should fix it.

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  2. I agree with *all* your point, Jamie. Great writing knows the rules, and breaks some of them.

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    1. So very true! Thanks for stopping by and commenting :)

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  3. Yes, argh! I'm going back and forth on something in my ms right now, unsure if it's worth the risk or not. But otherwise, I'm a pretty toe-the-line-kinda girl! =)

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    1. Yes! Usually I'm a rule follower unless I can find a creative loophole and then I run with it. But it's the decisions that I go back and forth on that i have to let stew a bit longer.

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  4. Great post! Sometimes I wonder how much the rules can be broken in order to convey the "voice" of the story.

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  5. My writing students and I talk about this a lot. Once you know the rules, you can start bending them, but it's important to remember that every time you break the rules, you're giving something up (clarity, character development, etc.) so you'll have to work extra hard in other areas to make up for it.

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    1. That's a great point. Everything in writing is give and take. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

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  6. Ha, this post reminds me of GiGi's revelation in He's Just Not that Into You =)
    I'm at this place right now with my PB manuscript. I read it to one critique group without any illustration notes and they advised me to add them in. I read it to another critique group with the illustration notes and the advised me to get rid of them. And yes, I know the "rule" says they should be avoided. Still. . .

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    1. haha yes, you are right. It's very similar to the He's Just Not that Into You!

      Wow that's a tough decision. I'd think if the convention is not to include them then I wouldn't because it might sway the agent/editors thinking in a bad direction. But at the end of the day you have to go with your gut and what feels right for you and your project. I wish you luck with your decision and with the future of your PB :)

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