Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When Being Yourself Breaks the Rules ~ A Peek At A Writer's Life

I write this post with my tongue in my cheek. Figuratively speaking. If I actually stuck my tongue in my cheek I'd probably bite it and that would hurt.

Anyway, since I am as yet unpublished, everything I'm about to say could be a total load of bunk. A year or two from now I might be recanting this post. Oh well. I guess I'll just have to live dangerously.

The average reader would probably be surprised by the number of "rules" writers are forever being told to write by. I won't go into them because, frankly, they don't matter. If you like a book - great! If you don't, well, there could be a whole lot of reasons for it.

One "rule" is that you aren't supposed to use adverbs. You know, those pesky little -ly words that run rampant through all of my writing? Yeah, those.

I like adverbs. To me, they can change a sentence entirely. Now, I understand not peppering your book with things like this:

"I'm home from the market," she said cheerily. 
"Did you leave any for someone else?" he asked sarcastically.
"Of course not!" She smiled as she walked away jauntily.

There's so many things wrong with that little snippet of writing that I can't even begin to tell you. Rest assured, my book is better than that. But the point is that -ly words got a bad rep for being lazy writing because of examples like the above.

As I've started putting my writing out there in hopes of publication, I've gotten a lot of compliments on my "voice". (That's the general flow and feel of an author's writing.) I think -ly words are a large part of my voice because without them, I feel like a lot of my sentences get stilted.

Now, because -ly words can sometimes be an indication of lazy writing, God has blessed me with a critique partner that ruthlessly challenges every adverb I use, which means I'm left with only the ones that I am fully committed to. (Obviously, she doesn't edit my blog posts... )

But I've had to come to terms with the fact that part of who I am as a writer goes against some accepted notions. The feedback I've gotten around that seems to be working for me, even if I do break the rules.

So what do you do when who you are seems to go against the norm? I think you roll with it. Since the Bible doesn't outlaw adverbs, I'm good with using them. Everyone might not like my writing, but there's a lot of people that do.

Life is like that, too. There are "rules" about church, work, family, and everything else, but sometimes you just can't fit within the rules. I know pastors reaching hundred in churches that hold services on Saturday nights, or in a closed down bar, or with slamming rock and roll music playing.

I think some rules make fabulous guidelines and should never be broken just for the sake of being broken. But unless the Bible specifically speaks against it, don't be afraid to break those unofficial always-been-accepted rules.

Have you broken an unofficial rule? Did it work for you?

images by FreeDigitalPhotos.net 


  1. Great post! I sometimes feel that I break pre-established genre rules. For instance, historical fiction is good, but Medieval fiction isn't currently "hot." But that happens to be what I write. Will I give up and write something else? Maybe. But I'm hoping people will be able to get a taste of this oft-ignored period of history. God was active, even then. I always have to be different, and sometimes it certainly CAN make life difficult.

    And I don't use many adverbs, but when I do, I don't feel guilty about it! Rather, I'm alarmingLY carefree about it! Grin.

  2. I love Medieval! It's the only other historical era I could see myself writing. I say write what you love and what God gave you. Eventually someone will like it. Who knows - you could be the one to make it popular!