Monday, March 1, 2010

Rules? There Are Rules?

I'd been plugging away at now two, not just one, novel.  My mind was reeling with plot lines and characters and all sorts of fantastical things.  It's probably the most fun I've had in quite some time.  It was extremely easy to get sucked into these other worlds my mind thought up.
So, it was with a bit of reluctance that I started to research more about the techniques, styles and rules of writing.  I wanted to write, not study about writing! 
My biggest fears regarding writing were that I hadn't known grammatical rules and that I was breaking them all over the place and not even aware of it.  This was the fear that I was determined to overcome with education.  Having been self taught with most things in my life, I viewed this as no different.
I viewed it as a challenge and I hit it head on.  Not even knowing where to start, I stumbled across several websites.  A few were helpful, many were not.  Finally, my fingers clicked across The Critique Circle website.  Everything until then had been just words and definitions, most of which still didn't make sense to me even after reading it several times over.  I was truly a beginner.
I joined this new website I had found and proceeded to lurk in a manner that would impress any industrious forum troll.  It was here, among other ordinary people who had similar questions, that I started to finally understand what I was missing.
It wasn't that I didn't know the rules of grammar.  Actually, I did and quite well.  I just didn't know the terms.  The mere mention of participles, modifiers and compound phrases sent me running for the hills in fear, when I really knew what they were, at least in the abstract.
What I didn't know, and still have a hard time with, were the writing rules.  When I started writing, in my mind if it was grammatically correct, then that's all that mattered.  Turns out there's a whole world of rules and guidelines that have very little to do with grammar.  This revelation opened my eyes quite a bit. 
One of the first rules I came across was not using adverbs.  My logical side wanted to buck the system.  Why have words if you shouldn't use them?  That just didn't make sense to me.  And what the heck is passive voice and why shouldn't I use it?  Showing?  Telling? 
I quickly gathered more terms that I feared.
Gathering what courage I could muster, I dived in and have since wrapped my brain around quite of few of these rules.  Although, I still want to call them guidelines rather than rules.  To me, the word rule implies no deviance at all.  In reality, authors deviate from these rules all the time, some successful and some not.  What I have realized is that the rules/guidelines are there for a reason, many of them good reasons.  They are there to strengthen and enhance writing by not letting writers get lazy.  By following some of these rules/guidelines in my own writing, I've made my writing better by leaps and bounds if only because it made me think. They gave me a fresh perspective when looking at my writing and allowed me to grow.
Over the next week or two, I'll go over a few of these rules/guidelines that  learned and accepted.  Some of them include: 
  • Use of Adverbs/Adjectives (especially the dreaded 'ly' ones).
  • Using active vs. passive voice.
  • Showing and not telling.
  • Using tags in dialogue.
  • Split infinitives (this falls a bit more into the grammar side of things. It's still a big debate, but it came up while I was doing this other research.  So here it shall remain!)

1 comment:

zellakate said...

Ooh, I look forward to your series, Elisabeth! I think everything can be used in moderation. It's just a matter of knowing when to use them. :)

Post a Comment