Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I think my comments to our previous two posts on this topic reveal that I am somewhat sceptical about all the 'rules' that seem to be floating around. Makes me wonder who invented them all. It also seems that there are as many variations to the rule as there are actual rules. As a result, I think that some would-be writers spend more time agonising over the do's and don'ts than over the actual story.
I wrote my novel 'The Measure of Love' before I had discovered any of the rules from writers' loops or from my critique partners. It probably breaks all the rules - sentences too long, telling rather than showing, too many adverbs, too many 'ing' words etc. Okay, it was rejected - but the reason given was that too much backstory slowed down the pace (which I agreed with, by the way!). But nothing to do with any of the rules. On the contrary, the editor said I had "an enjoyable and engaging writing style.' Adverbs and all!
Now I'm wondering whether, in my newly-acquired awareness of and efforts to avoid the usual 'pitfalls', I've actually lost that enjoyable and engaging style. But no, there are still times when I break the rules (consciously now rather than unknowingly) simply because it feels right to me. I usually know, instinctively somehow, when my writing 'flows' and when it doesn't.


  1. You keep doing what you're doing because it works for you.

    Editors are always looking for a new voice, so those who don't follow the rules, will have that NEW VOICE!!

  2. I completely agree about breaking the rules. A writer has to do what works for them and what keeps the muse flowing.

    And I've never had a manuscript rejected because there are too many adverbs.

  3. Yay for the pro-adverb group then. There are times when you HAVE to use them, because any alternative would seem stilted and contrived. And obviously you wouldn't use them every other sentence, just as you wouldn't substitute another word for 'said' every time. There are times when you need to use asked, replied, whispered etc but too many synonyms for 'said' would drive a reader mad! Moderation in all things is the key.
    Seems to me that you just WRITE what feels RIGHT to you! That's your voice.

  4. Hi,

    What can I say but YAY to pro-adverb group: in moderation!

    As for she said, he said, Tom said, Dick said etc., all okay as long "said" doesn't beggin to rattle the conscious like a train clackety-clacking over the rail joints. ;)

  5. Writing by the book doesn't work. You will lose your freshness.

  6. I judge contest entries. There, the adverb issue arises when an entry contains too many passive verb clauses. Maybe passive writing is what needs addressing, not maligned adverbs, which are wonderfully descriptive and emotive.