Monday, May 22, 2006

Learning to Write

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. ~Mortimer Adler

I got to thinking, yesterday, about recent posts at Romancing the Blog. One, called True Confessions discussed the fact that the writer had never read two of the icons of romance: Nora Roberts and Jennifer Crusie. And she was pretty proud of it. So were most of the 37 people who commented.

The other was called Proud to be a Non-Conformist and discussed that "how-to" writing books and "the rules" were ruining her voice, so she decided that she would never read a "how-to" book again and to heck with the rules. Again, the commenters widely supported her opinion.

Now I get to to talk about my opinion of these posts because it's my blog.

As to the first, I will admit that I was one of the commenters. I confessed, and will now confess to you: I thought that Outlander by Diana Gabaldon was boring. So boring, in fact, that despite trying to read it three different times, I couldn't get through it. I kept trying because this book is held up as an icon of romantic fiction.

BUT, I have read Nora and Jenny. In fact, I really enjoy both of them (though I don't love Nora's early category stuff). Some things bug me about both (mostly Nora's head-hopping), but I think that they write fantastically, they have good characters and interesting plots for the most part, and clearly they appeal to the masses.

I can learn from them.

In my opinion, not reading the leaders in your genre (whether you actually like their stuff of not) is irresponsible. Additionally, I've found some great new authors by reading stuff that I wasn't sure I'd like.

Stephen King said in On Writing: If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write.

My comments on the second blog are similar. I understand that rules can be stifling. And that many "how-to" books contradict each other. Still, I read them and select those things that work for me, and toss the rest. Because that's my right.

And what about those "rules"? Until you're Nora (even if you hate her), following some of the basic rules simply makes sense if you want to be published.

Ahhh... that's the kicker, isn't it? If you want to be published.

I want to be published. So I don't head hop and I do my utmost best to eliminate most passive voice from my story. I try to start and end every chapter with a hook of some sort.

Do these kind of rules hurt my individual voice. NO. It's like saying using correct grammar and spelling will hurt my voice. They are basic parameters within which most writers should be able to work.

I think head hopping is lazy. It's the easy way out. I think learning how to stay in one POV within a scene and still get your point across is a challenge. I like a challenge.

Passive voice is also lazy. It's just harder to see because we so commonly use it in our every day speech. So LEARN about it.

What's wrong with the "show don't tell" rule? Nothing!! It makes your writing more vivid and clear. It sucks the reader into your story. Why not follow it??

Writing for publication without at least learning the rules is like attempting brain surgery without going to medical school.

In my opinion.

1 comment:

Ceri said...

What you said!!!

You are far more eloquent than I am. But I agree 100% (except that I actually liked Outlander).

I try my hardest not to headhop. I know that its wrong, but there are times, especially when I'm either writing a prompt or rough draft) that I do it, but try to correct it when I go back to edit. As for the rest, yup, do those things.

I write because I love to do it, but I'm also writing to get published. Maybe someday I'll get to the point in my career where I can let go of some of the rules, but until then I'll follow them as closely as I can.