Rules are Meant to be Broken…

…but not because they weren’t meant to be kept. Otherwise, why create them in the first place? The problem isn’t the intention behind them, but rather their nature. They are simplifications we employ to deal with or move past issues without having to dwell on them. But because they are simplifications, they fail to handle all life’s complexities. Where they don’t fit, we must discard them. When it comes to writing, instead of helping me complete my work, they often get in the way.

In her January 20 post, guest blogger LJ Cohen called into question several accepted truisms of the writing community and I couldn’t agree with her more. Like LJ, the way I write often conflicts with accepted “wisdom.” Take the caveat against editing as you write.

The chapter I just finished is an ugly creature. In the wake of everything preceding it in this thriller I’m writing, it is abysmally weak. Convention says I should ignore its ugliness, move on to the next chapter, and not return until the first draft’s completed. However, the more I consider it, the more glaring this chapter’s failings become, creating a weak foundation for what can only become a monumental dud. As a result, I can’t go on. Word quotas be damned, I have to climb on this beast and ride until it feels right.

Consequently, one sixth of the way through the story, I’m already revising. I have no problem with that because for me the point is not quantity. If the work isn’t satisfying during the process, I may as well take up knitting. Knit one, purl two, knit one, purl two, ad nauseam

Sometimes I wish I had taken up mainstream instead of genre literature. Mainstream authors are seldom expected to crank out books on demand. I’m sure Truman Capote’s agent and publisher wished ’til the day he died—God bless him—he had completed anything after In Cold Blood. I’m equally certain that’s where the pressure to turn out books according to schedule originates; agents and publishers would starve without a reliable supply of products to market. I also suspect that’s why so many established authors begin to produce garbage; quality and quotas don’t mix.

I’m certainly aware if I ever expect to be published, on a business level I’m producing a commodity. On the other hand, I must also remember I have readers to satisfy.

And if in the end I never get published, at least through legacy channels—haven’t discarded the possibility of an indie launch—I intend to produce something that satisfies Moi.



4 responses to “Rules are Meant to be Broken…

  1. I agree with you Raymond, pleasing yourself with your creative work has to come first, otherwise the process to sell it would seem shallow.


  2. Your right, Raymond. Your first loyalty is to the story–rules be damned. If it moves the story forward, if it helps the reader better understand your characters, if it keeps the reader turning pages, Rules be damned. In other words If it works, do it! As for the rules and the people that make them, Their job is to sell them, not write them. Do what works for you and let someone else follow the rules.

  3. Great post, Raymond. And I completely agree that not all rules are meant to be followed religiously. I can’t allow an ugly, messy chapter to just sit. It ruins my frame of mind and destroys all productivity until I go back in and fix it up. I never think of them as rules, but more of a set of guidelines. 😉

  4. Thanks, guys. It’s getting to the point the publishing game is starting to grate. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me, then I get some positive reinforcement from friends like you telling me my gut instinct is correct after all.

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