By Keith N Fisher
I know—I’m late—I didn’t post last week. To be honest I hadn’t done enough writing to think of anything to write about, then I had a dream and read a Facebook post the next morning. Now, I have a couple of things to say. I’ll save my comments about the Salem witch trials for my other blog.
Even though I can’t afford it, I’ve been planning my attendance at the Authors Incognito writer’s retreat. On a side note: I would still rather attend a retreat that is planned around camping somewhere, but it’s a new generation . . . the ones in charge . . . they just don’t know how to be hippies. J
Anyway, I must’ve been thinking about it when I went to sleep last night, because in my dream, I was attending some kind of writerly function. The rock stars of writing were being housed in trailers. (Maybe it was my camping retreat?) Anyway, at one point as I entered Jeff Savage’s trailer, he came up from behind me. I told him I came to steal his morning newspaper. He was accommodating and said he would be right back.
The next thing I knew, I had fallen asleep in his trailer and he hadn’t come back. I had earned the dubious reputation of the deadbeat who fell asleep in his place. There were other authors with their own trailers and Tristi Pinkston had me come fix something in hers. I woke up before I found out what.
I don’t know what the dream meant. I do know how embarrassed I was. Then I got up and turned to Facebook.
When I first started writing I broke all the rules. To be fair, however, I didn’t know the rules. As I continued, I discovered the Chicago Manual of Style and myriad books about writing. I went to writer’s conferences, formed a critique group, and learned many of the rules.
I also learned that some of the more successful writers break some of the rules. When I mentioned that to a group of writers, they weren’t surprised. I learned that if you’re a famous best seller, you can break rules. Although I realized that was true, and their readers overlook the mistake, those readers still notice. If enough of the rules are broken, even the most avid fan will give up and quit reading.
The implication is clear. Those of us who aren’t best sellers must keep the rules. We must keep a higher standard. I get a kick out of hearing the excuses of writers who want to bend the rules. The excuses are all valid, I used them before, when I didn’t know the rules.
What is really fun, is the number of writers who self-publish, thinking they can break any rule they want. You don’t hear it much anymore, but one of the major criticisms of LDS and other small fiction was the quality of writing. If we break the rules, what does that do to our reputations?
I’ve heard many in our culture complain that with the Internet, We are losing the language. People just can’t speak properly anymore. A retired editor once told me she’d seen so many mutilations of the written language she worried about literature. Keep in mind, our conversation happened in nineteen ninety.
I’ve said it before, but when I read a book and find broken rules and bad grammar, I toss it against the wall. It hurts to be held to strict standards and find published writers who weren’t.
Write what you want, the way you want, but please don’t break the rules. Keep the language pure.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.