Thursday, January 8, 2009

Know the Rules? Okay, Break Them

“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” -- W. Somerset Maugham
In a similar vein, John Steinbeck said:
“If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced that there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another.” -- John Steinbeck in The Writer’s Digest Guide to Good Writing.
As a relatively new author, I keep the “rules” of writing in mind when I craft a story, but I realize these rules are more like guidelines. They can be broken once learned. I'm currently reading a Pulitzer Prize wining novel that is full of phrases disguised as sentences.

I've yet to break any rules -- at least, not on purpose. I’m not secure enough in my abilities to do so. But when I do, it will be because it’s the correct thing to do, and I’ll know why that’s so. I read too many pieces where it’s obvious the author doesn’t have a clue how to craft a story, or that there are basic rules of writing. Their work is full of grammatical errors, incorrect use of words, poorly developed plots and other cardinal sins. If I want to be considered a serious writer, I need to create stories that follow the rules of writing, or, if they don’t, do so in such a way that the reader either doesn't notice, or doesn't care.

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