A good lesson from Lucy … don’t annoy strangers on elevators, never bump into old ladies with your shopping cart and seek professional help if you see bats in your bell free.
No more television …
I made this announcement at the pool the other day and one of my swim friends looked at me like I had become a one-eyed Cyclops.
I left the darn thing on the front lawn waiting for the trash man to come. It remained out there for one entire night and day and no one “took” it. Usually when you leave stuff on the lawn next to your mail box, someone comes along and takes it. A chair, a cabinet, an old vacuum to name three that have been left by my mailbox.
But that old clunky thing had no takers. Then the man hoisted it into the back of the truck and BAM … CRUNCH … it was no longer.
That was three weeks ago.
So I have been reading more.
I mean does anyone remember what they did before TV?
Okay, no jokes about the dark ages.
Speaking of reading …
If you are an incurable rebel or you have delusions of being a rebel with or without a cause … you might be fond of breaking the rules.
According to all the writing advice in the known universe, there are set rules.
Don’t open a book or a chapter with dialogue or with weather.
Don’t use prepositions at the end of a sentence.
Watch for those passive words … don’t say “that” too much … or “have had” a great deal.
Find the most hated and overused words and destroy them.
Eliminate the bleeping, weeping ings of the gerund.
Don’t do too much back story at one time.
Don’t lead with back story
Don’t use too much descriptive prose
Don’t describe yourself in first person
Don’t go head hopping … remember to stay in your POV.
There are at least two dozen or more don’t and never-dos you must avoid.
Oh and yes, make each end of a chapter spell-binding and emotionally grueling and leave your reader hanging.
You might think if you read the classics or any book that is more than 20 years old that you would see how truly terrible writing was before we followed all these rules.
Why it would be unthinkable to do what so many of those old fools did.
Pity those like Agatha Christi or Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens or Thomas Wolfe.
It is for darn sure they would never get published today.
Readers have changed.
They want fast and snappy.
Of course, you would never expect to find someone who writes in this market to break any of those rules … their agents and/or publishers would blow a gasket.
Unless of course you are James Patterson, Robert B. Parker, Nora Roberts, Michael Connelly, Jennifer Weiner, Sophie Kinselaa, Barbara Kingsolver or EARLY Janet Evanovich. Sorry that I had to emphasis “early” for Janet as she has fallen into the music industry’s worst example of a hack.
Every … and I do mean … every one of those rules are broken all the time and with some authors, several of them in one book … and somehow those misguided wordsmen managed to become best-selling authors and have collectively made about a billion dollars. I mean Nora alone pulls in about a quarter of a mil a year.
And let me tell you something about Nora … she head hops, starts books and chapters with dialogue, and does all kinds of things she shouldn’t and guess what? Those same agents and publishers let her get away with it.
Dick Francis wrote more than forty stories and the man’s work is over-run with the hated “ly” and “that” and tons of “had/haves.”
I counted …
In one sentence Dick used six gerunds and five “ly” words … and that was only one long, run-on sentence. He did all that whilst Sid Halley thought of the past and described everything from his childhood to his last lover to how he lost his right hand.
I found something of Nora in Friends of the Library that she wrote three years ago and her head hopping and long back story was amazing.
In the three weeks since I gave up TV I have read more than two dozen books in hard cover, paperback, and on my kindle.
They are the strangest mix of stuff from a free-be someone put on my kindle for winning the draw … leave a comment and be eligible for a free copy … to the last book of Jennifer Weiner I ordered last month from Amazon.
Yesterday I started an oldie from Victoria Holt, Mistress of Mellyn
Not only that … there are at least five or six best-selling authors who have written the same plot and used the same type of character at least a dozen times with some variation in names and time and place. And I do mean best-selling as in millions of copies.
There is a good reason James Patterson has turned his books into a franchise and collaborates with three or four people … the reason is that Alex Cross got tired … and I do mean … he got sick and tired.
Alex lost a dozen significant others, including a wife and three fiancés and four other lovers. His granny must be 125 by now.
He’s been shot, slashed, beaten, and had his kids and lovers kidnapped and maimed and lost at least four partners as a detective. He became and quit being a cop and then became a profiler for the FBI and then burned out and became a teacher at Quantico and then got caught up in another mind-bending plot to capture a raving maniac.
I mean poor Alex Cross has lived three lifetimes on paper and is more indestructible than Superman.
A member of my local group told me a mystery I set in the 60’s with Vietnam as a backdrop was too old. Use Iraq or Desert Storm instead.
And don’t talk about the sixties or Vietnam … that is unless you are Michael Connelly and write about Harry Bosch and you won the top three awards any mystery writer can win for your debut novel.
And don’t do poetic prose in a mystery. Who wants poetic in a mystery? Well obviously, anyone who has ever read Connelly or Robert B. Parker.
Never say never …
Don’t worry about rules. They truly were meant to be broken. Write with your heart not with a guidebook.
I am not suggesting that we forego editing out the obvious junk or the annoying repetitive language that makes us sound bad. Yes, it is bad writing to do all of those or not care about how we sound …
However … it is a shame that we allow our true love of the word be subject to too much crafting.
In the aftermath of television I am having one hell of a great time reading some new writers, revisiting some of the old, and rediscovering the joy of what we do.
Be daring and care enough to make a difference with what you say.
Tell me true …
Have you broken any rules lately?