Friday, March 20, 2009

Writing by the Rules

My crit buddy and I like to rant occasionally in emails to one another how we abhor the rules of the writing craft. Stifling our creativity - in our opinion - these rules only exist to make writing that much harder. More hoops to jump through to get this agent's attention/representation. It's aggravating, for sure, but then I have to remind myself that if the end goal is publication - seeking an outlet for all these ideas in my head that goes beyond taking up space on my desktop - then there has to be some conformation to these rules.

The rule I probably detest the absolute most is using adverbs sparsely (is that ironic, or what?). In English classes in high school - and even college - professors taught that your ability to weild adverbs and adjectives was like the icing on the cake, what could set your writing above par from your peers. Now, in publishing land, this rule is resolute: few IF ANY -ly adverbs in your writing! My fantastic crit partner catches them all for me, and I dutifully go back to my original and hite DELETE, but I get mad doing so (not at you, Katie!).

I think, what is wrong with that adverb there? It succinctly (great adverb there) tells the reader in just one word how my character is feeling or acting. But therein lies the problem, I suppose. Adverbs TELL. They describe, of course, by overtly telling. And authors are suppose to SHOW. This was a concept I hadn't thought about until reading books on the writing craft. So now I think twice about the Tom Swiftie or adverb (I've posted on this before, I'm remembering...but I told you...ranting helps get through the frustration) and try to find some creative way to express the same idea. And yes, using more words.

By the way, I've italicized all the adverbs, to reiterate how exceedingly much I love using them.

Are there any rules that just irritate you to no end? (Oooh...that reminds me about the no cliche rule! That deserves an entire post, though.) If so, tell me about it.


Katie said...

HA! I'm not so annoyed by the -ly rule - that doesn't bug too much. But sometimes the whole passive/active voice gets to me!

Manoel José de Santana(Manoel Limoeiro) said...
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