Wednesday, October 28, 2015

But Author X Does That So What Can't I??

If you have attended writing workshops in the past, or read craft books, there are always these lists of things you should not do in your writing. The authors of these books and these presenters seem to imply that the world will collapse in on you and all of the punishments the Greek Gods could think of would happen to you.

And then...

You pick up a novel from one of your favorite authors and there they go, doing all of the things that you were told not to do. Not only did those Greek Gods not rip their livers out and strap them to a rock, they graced these authors with a book ending up on the NY Times Bestseller list.

Why is the world so unfair? Why do they get to "head-hop" and you aren't allowed to?

The answer is actually two-fold.

The first is that they have earned the right to. They have put in the time. They have a following. They have readers who will buy anything they put out and everyone is making money. Let's face it. Money talks.

But the real reason is the one that actually is the most important. These authors know how to do it successfully. They know how to manipulate grammar and craft in such a way to get a message across to the reader and to get the right tone and voice in the story.

Here is an example. If you have ever read Ernest Hemingway, you would know that the Grammar Gurus cringe when reading it. This guy really messes with the grammar, and yet, it works. The reason is Hemingway was very well versed in grammar. Remember his background was in journalism. He knew what to do. But he also knew how to use that grammar in such a way to get the right feel for the story.

When you have an author who understands grammar (and tools of the craft) so well, they can pull this off flawlessly. Sure, if you are examining the stories with a fine-toothed comb, you will see it and it can be annoying, but, in most cases, the writing flows so well that you ignore it. You aren't seeing those errors. You just walk away knowing you enjoyed the writing, the characters and the story.

Like all things in publishing, there are really no fixed rules. Yes, you can get away with pretty much everything. But, if you want to start messing around with the rules, you better know them inside and out. You better be able to make those changes without thinking about it. It has to be natural. Until then, I highly recommend you stick to the rules and write a really good story. Trust me, you will get to the point where you too can mess with the rules.

1 comment:

  1. This is a nice, encouraging post. I've had that experience of reading an author and then realizing suddenly that they've done a "no-no". But I agree: you can't break rules successfully unless you know them inside out.