One of the things I find funny about writing, besides how many people are doing it, is the crazy amount of rules. There are published authors writing about rules. There are agents writing about rules. There are wannabes-galore writing about rules on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and wherever. Rules. Rules. Rules.
Whatever happened to writing what works—what feels right?
I know that rules are important, but sometimes I feel like these rule makers are forcing me to be like everyone else, sound like everyone else. Not only that, they want me to pimp their rules on my blog or at writing group. The crappy part is, I do it—I’m a lemming.
It’s funny. I’ve stalked a few agents’ blogs in the past. The agent will tear a query letter apart, outlining what sucks about it, what rules were broken, and why he would reject. I would read these rejects line by line, absorbing what went wrong, hoping that when I was ready I would follow the rules and kick out an awesome query. I would apply these rules to my novel and struggle until my eyes bled just to get it perfect.
Then one day when I was scouring the blogs, I found an example of a query letter that broke all the rules. I knew it; I’ve been reading the blogs, studying the rules, so I knew the agent was going to rip it up. I kept reading, waiting for the attack, but it never happened. She loved it. Yes, it broke all the rules, but she didn’t care. She wanted to read more.
“I want to read more.”
Isn't that the phrase writers want to hear?
If you look at books on the NY Times Best Seller List there are many that are far from perfect. They break the rules. They use exclamation points, one too many adjectives, contrived plots, blah blah blah. But there are millions of people who want to read more. They are clawing, scratching, and digging their way to the bookstore to get the sequel.
Meanwhile, back in don’t-break-the-rules land, we mock these authors. We laugh at their use of punctuation, their overuse of adverbs, and whatever else we see wrong. I’m not sure if it’s because we think we’re better or if we just can’t get over these rule breakers.
So what do you think? Is your writing bogged down with rules? Or are you a bad boy and following the voices in your head, exclamation points and all? Do you write what feels right no matter what?