A client of my editing service and good friend told me the other day that she was struggling reading the book she was currently reading, because although it was by one of her favorite authors in the Christian industry, they were, as she said, "breaking all the rules you taught me to follow."
It's as the Bible says - if it weren't for the law, there'd be no sin. ;)
As a reader, when we don't know the way it's "supposed" to be done, we only focus on the story. The book is good or bad or ho-hum based on the story alone. That's kind of nice!
But once we dive into the industry for ourselves, and begin learning the craft of writing, we gain what I call the Internal Editor.
I'm thinking of naming mine, because man, she's doesn't shut up ;)
This I.E doesn't turn off easily - even when we're reading a story we so desperately want to enjoy....but can't.
Because the author is head-hopping like a bunny rabbit on crack.
Or because the author is using so many adjectives and passive writing, every sentence is about 4 words longer than it should be.
Or because the author is using way too many dialogue tags (she said, he declared, she yelled, he exclaimed, etc.) instead of story-progressing, descriptive action beats.
Or because the author is over-explaining their plot and not trusting us as the reader to get it.
Or because the author is switching tenses from past to present or past-perfect to present or any other combo.
Or because the author is describing a country meadow at sunset for six paragraphs when two well-done sentences would have sufficed nicely.
And so on, and so on.
As writers we might get frustrated with the "rules" and forget that they're there for a reason - that they might our writing stronger. Our books more effective. Our ministry more uplifting.
So next time you get a hard critique from a friend or a less than stellar contest score or a rejection letter from an editor or agent, don't hide under the covers or quit your dreams. Eat chocolate, then glean from it. Where can you improve your craft? ARE you guilty of what they pointed out? (probably, and if it's an editor or agent than most definitely)
We're always learning and growing on this crazy ride, even us multi-pubbed authors. We don't stop, we always want to try to get better. I for one don't want to "peak" and then backslide. I want my every book to be better than the last and not as good as the next. Don't you? Then keep learning. Implement those rules instead of buck them. Give them a try instead of thinking you know more than the veterans or teacers teaching you. (maybe you do, but odds are for a while at least, you don't)
Some authors get away with the rule breaking (Nicholas Sparks) and we still love them because their stories are so powerfully and emotional. But think how much BETTER they would be if they followed the rules we're taught to follow in writing? Think how much STRONGER the connection we'd have when not being confused about whose POV we're in, etc.
Don't get frustrated because they get away with it and you don't. Just focus on making YOUR book the best it can by writing it the best way you know how. No short cuts.
Unless of course, your first novel was contracted for a million dollars, and almost every novel you've ever written turned into a record breaking award winning movie.
In which case you should take over this blog ;)
And buy me a pair of Jimmy Choos.