Wednesday, September 06, 2006

TO HELL WITH WELL
I like rules. No, scratch that, I love rules. Rules create order, order creates predictability, all things I thrive on, yet never seem to have. If you give me a rule I will follow it to the letter, forever. If someone tells me never to do something, that's it, I'm never doing it. Likewise, if told, especially by a teacher, that there is a right way to do something, I'm all about getting it right.
These tendencies served me well in school, especially in writing. I knew and loved all the rules of the English language. They were games to me to be played for fun. The rules made sense, there were inherent rewards for their adherence. Nothing was more satisfying than an A on a paper.
Since finishing school I've continued to write and to read. What I've discovered has been quite disturbing! Some of my favorite writers completely disregard my sacred rules! They begin sentences with "And"! They drop the "ly" on their adverbs! They have paragraphs with fewer than 3-5 sentences, some even have paragraphs containing only a single word! What the hell? And (it's OK to do that, I've learned), they are getting something much better than an A, they are getting published! They are making their way to the best-seller lists, they are even changing lives with their errant ways!
This has thrown me into a complete tailspin. If these writing rules cannot only be broken, but by being broken can possibly improve writing, what does this mean?Does this mean that other rules may perhaps need re-adjusting? Breaking? Abolishing, even? Oh my God, I just did it. I broke some rules. Where's the lightening? Where's the "F"? Maybe good writing doesn't have to be done well...

17 comments:

Jerri said...

With you on the rules thing, Carrie. It's taken me years to get past needing to use every last one of them with which I am familiar (still have trouble ending a sentence with a preposition, though).

It turns out that good writing isn't about following the rules that got us As. It's about communicating clearly.

And you, my dear, get an A at that, every time.

Suzy said...

what are rules?

Suzy said...

Oh, I know- the rules your "family" gives you!!!

Suzy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
trapped in a free spirit... said...

to me, writing is not about following the rules at all…it’s all about communicating a message… and since there are already so many “exceptions to the rules”...I for one have never embraced the "rules"

I love and constantly use “unnecessary quotes”

and...'s

the ~'s and +'s are for artistic or dramatic value~

as is one paragraphs like...

Brilliant!!!

I recklessly use exclamation points!! usually, two or three in a row!!

not to mention the use of & and @ when I should be writing and or at~

these are all part of my "charm" !!!

now let's talk about mixing cursive with printing and using a capitalized letter in the middle of a word...

Jenny Rough said...

Carrie,

You done good breaking them there rules. And that ain't no lie.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Dear Trapped in a Free Spirit,

If I lose the rules and go the free spirit route, will I too be a best selling author?

Anonymous said...

I've never met a rule I haven't wanted to break!
Elisabeth

trapped in a free spirit... said...

only you can decide...

I think you should self-publish and sell the books for the price of a "good-will offering"

define what "best selling" means to you and then apply the "label" if you've lived up to your own expectations

la cubed said...

I get the rules thing, and the english language is breaking them all the time. What's up with that?!

I'm trying to teach my son to read and the phonics rules are redificul!
"Mummy, does that sign say Played Pantry (Plaid Pantry)?"
"It should say played pantry, but it actually says plad pantry; it's not doing a very good job of following the rules (you know the one, when two vowels are together, the first one says its name and the second one is silent) is it?!
"Oh, I get it. I was so confused 'cus I've never heard of played pantry before."

So, there you go. If the language itself can break the rules, surely brilliant you is more than entitled to do so.

lisajoelle said...

I've always done well with rules, I like rules, but as you can tell the rules of the English language, have gone right over my head. As you can see my writing sucks, I've never quite understood the "rules", I realize that I am the queen of commas. It's a good thing that I can speak well.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Rules are necessary in society (traffic lights, don't kill) but I think rules can sometimes zap the soul right out of art.

Don't like em.

ALWAYS on MY report cards...."needs to work on following directions."

Carrie junkie said...

All your writing is so wonderful, all the time, there is never a question that you get an A...ALWAYS!!!

Carrie Wanna Be said...

Drat, so you will be breaking rules now?? Just when I got your style down to a T...this is going to be perplexing but I will follow in you footsteps, oh wise one...lead where you may.

jennifer said...

One rule, write your truth...okay, two, harm nothing with hate...okay, three...be willing to be wrong but still...write your truth...okay...four...oh, drat...just come to another workshop, it will all be abundantly clear...

Back At'cha said...

Girl, come down under, grab a brewsky, take it easy and let the rules slide off your back like water off a duck! Too many rules, too many rules to break...let it go and party!

Go Mama said...

Good writing to me has a point of view. A story to tell. Or a style. Either it draws you in, or leaves you flat.

And that's more important than some archaic rules of structure or syntax.

Rules, schmools. Rules are for pussies.