Hello, my name is Lori. And I’m a rule-a-holic. Worse than that, I’m a guideline addict. A devotee to structure. A follower of all I’ve learned. So don’t be put off when all those rules spinning inside my head fly out my mouth or dump on your page.
The list of rules is endless. And people are always adding more.
I’ve been struggling lately with rules in my own manuscript. When I edit my work, I’m harder on myself than I am on anyone else.
My goal is always to make my writing better, stronger, faster.
Better gives clear word pictures and understanding.
Stronger puts more emotion and power in my story and in my characters.
Faster pushes the flow, increases the tension and the action, and keeps the reader turning pages.
All good things. But sometimes rules block my creativity, confine me to a box, cage me in.
Take the word as.
As denotes simultaneity and can confuse the reader about which event happens first. As can slow down the action/reaction flow in an event. Removing the word as usually makes your writing better, stronger, faster.
I was reading a popular book last night by a NYT Bestselling author I’ve been reading for years. These days my Editor Brain never shuts off and she is mean. She ruins many books for me. Books I want to enjoy, but I can’t because I’m counting the “ing” beginnings and the filter words.
This author used the word as in more than five sentences ON THE SAME PAGE.
Speaking of rules, yes, I know using ALL CAPS is yelling at the reading. I am yelling. I meant to yell. It’s all good J.
I went back and read the as sentences I picked out in the book again.
In two of the sentences, I mentally replaced the word as with the word and. Better, stronger, faster every time.
I removed the as, which was the first word, in another. Yep, still better, stronger, faster.
The fourth sentence I broke into two parts in an action/reaction order. Better, stronger, faster again.
One sentence to go.
I rearranged the order, took out the as, put in a new word, and read it out loud. Awkward and stilted, my sentence lost the pretty flow as well as the emotion and meaning that the author’s original sentence did so well.
I put the as back in. And LIKED it there. I broke the rule.
I guess sometimes rules are meant to be broken. Sometimes.
So what’s a rule-a-holic like me to do?
Love the rules. Embrace the guidelines that four out of five times make my writing better, stronger, faster.
Be willing to step over that line and break the rules every so often in the name of beauty and flow.
Choose what works for you and please, step out of the box.
What rules do you break? And why?