1. Galadriel says:

    That’s the thing…breaking the rules can sometimes work, but it has to be used carefully.

    • Precisely, Galadriel. First we have to know what’s worked for others (the “rules”), then we have to deviate from them judiciously and with purpose. Finally we have to hear from others that our different way is effective in our story.


  2. Melinda Reynolds says:

    I, too, deplore the overuse of ‘said’ and the ‘ly’ words. I was a reader long before I started writing, and my opinion is that JK Rowling can’t write.

    The dumbing down in schools over the past 40 years has produced ignorant readers incapable of discernment; they read what is ‘popular’, not what is well written, stimulating the intellect as well as the imagination.  But I also think JK Rowling and her ilk (the Twilight junk, etc) are writing to a seventh-eighth grade level… I don’t read teen books, but I doubt if those teens actually read the books either.  It’s just the ‘in’ thing to say.  The few who actually do read the books learn nothing about good writing.

    Thankfully there are also a lot of students who break out and learn on their own, and they invariably shun the above mentioned books and those like them. 

    But, as always, the $$$$$ sales will determine the market, but that’s another subject 🙂

    So which feedback is more important?  A reader is usually the who buys the book; the writer usually gives critiques  on a submission.  I prefer the objective opinion of a reader who actually reads and doesn’t go by word of mouth — ie, friend skimmed it, liked it, told reader, and now reader likes it, too.  But feedback from anyone is helpful, and a critique  from a writer can help correct overlooked flaws in grammar, plot, and characterization.

    Also, I think bad writing is noticed; to what degree depends on the reader’s knowledge and intellect, neither of which the writer has any control.

    LOL, :-D, and most people think writing is sooooo easy…

    • Melinda, the thing about the adverbs with said, most classics were written in that style. I’ve read a couple other British authors, too, and I think that style is still in vogue among our friends across the pond. It really isn’t “wrong,” which is why I don’t thing readers even notice.

      I know some young adults who read Harry Potter — all seven, though they had not read much before. I can’t say about Twilight, but Ms. Rowling’s readers were quite real.

      Her work, with all the literary references, is far more than writing for those at a juvenile reading level. Already there have been a number of scholarly books written about them. There is much to say about the series. Any time your central theme is something as weighty as death, I think it’s an indicator that the author wasn’t writing to a simple-minded audience.

      I just read a funny thing in a blog post at Goodreads. Mike Duran posted a quote from another author complaining about how knowing the rules made her unable to read a lot of fiction because of how the authors break the rules. In her rant she said, “I can’t hardly” stand to read fiction … I had to read that twice. Yes, an author complaining about others breaking writing “rules,” ignored a fundamental grammar rule we learned in elementary school. Now that’s irony. 😆



      • Yes, using adverbs with said is the classic way of writing.  Since I grew up reading the classics, it’s been quite hard to break away from using those adverbs.  Part of me wonders if the readers even notice.  I didn’t as a reader until I started studying writing and reading the “rules.”  It didn’t bother me at all.  I thought it was just how it was done!  

        Everyone takes such a firm stand against those adverbs, but part of me can’t help but wonder who created the rule.  It obviously wasn’t the classical writers… or the readers… so, who decided that all “adverbs with said” should be cut?  Or all the -ly adverbs?  I agree that rules should be broken carefully and with due caution.  But I can’t help but wonder who established the rules in the first place?  Sometimes, in my opinion, a good -ly adverb adds to the sentence rather than weakening the writing.  Sure, don’t over use it, but don’t completely outlaw it either!  Like you said in your next comment, if we all did that then we would all sound alike!  🙂     

  3. Kessie says:

    I’ve been reading Techniques of the Selling Writer. I know exactly why Harry Potter did as well as it did. It had feeling.
    Selling Writer talks about how if you’re going to write, write from your gut, with feeling. Stories without feeling are good mechanically but they don’t inspire feeling in the reader. Rowling LOVED her story and her characters, and inspires the same feeling in readers. We don’t read her because of her lovely prose. I can go read Cry the Beloved Country or some other depressing political book if I want lovely prose.
    We read her because she makes us laugh and cry and love and hate. Books like that are what sell. We’re reading for entertainment, right? Feeling is what entertains the best.
    Good grammar? As long as it conveys meaning clearly, who cares? As Jack Sparrow pointed out, “Those are more like guidelines than actual rules.”

  4. Kessie, you’re absolutely right; they are guidelines. I went through a phase where I treated them as rules, and it bugged me so much when I saw these multi-published writers doing all the things the writing instructors said not to do.  Eventually, though, I began to realize that if we all sanitized our writing via the same instructions, our writing would become very vanilla. I call it the Browne and Kinging of writing — we all toe the line, excise all the –ly words, all the –ing words, use only said for our speaker attributes,  never use the omniscient voice, etc. we would all sound exactly the same.

    Passion is certainly a key element in good writing. I love Rowling’s work for its creativity, though. She didn’t invent the wheel, but she synthesized it with the box and ended up with a cart no one had ever seen before. Great lesson for writers.


    • Kessie says:

      I’m reading Firebird by Kathy Tyers, and she writes in omniscient third-person. That’s supposed to be a huge no-no, yet I don’t mind it much. I don’t think omniscient with all of its POV-hopping became “bad” until the last ten or fifteen years. I think it just makes it easier for editors to reject all omniscient in favor of limited third person.

      • You’re right — this idea that omniscient is bad is a fairly recent trend. I suspect it came about because a lot of new authors were trying it, and when it is done badly, it really does end up confusing the reader. In my first critique group, one of our writers submitted the opening chapter of her new book and it was the epitome of head hopping. Up to that point, I hadn’t really understood what people meant by that term, but bad omniscient voice is exactly that. When it’s done well, there are smooth transitions and no confusion. Tolkien used the omniscient voice, and no one accuses him of doing something dreadful. 😉


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