Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WIP Wednesday -- "Rules were made to be broken"

I'll just go ahead and say it -- y'all were right. It was just a phase, and I'm all better now. A little better anyway. Since my crybaby tantrum last week, I've edited almost another 100 pages, including the long middle section that needed the most scrapping, rewriting, and scene-adding, and its all gone pretty smoothly. Most of you suggested taking some time off and putting some distance between myself and my manuscript, and believe me -- I would freaking love to do that right now. But I promised my agent a solid second draft by Thanksgiving, and I am a man of honor. And dignity. And fancy socks. And maturity.

All this revising has me thinking blasphemous thoughts, though. And disagree with me if you like, but sometimes, you has to writes bad to do goooder. I agonize over each and every instance of it, but sometimes, after restructuring a sentence thirteen different ways, I'm forced to compromise my ideals. Because sometimes, an adverb is just the thing to effectively modify that slippery verb.

And that's not the only rule I tend to break. Sometimes I break the rule about repeating certain words too many times on a single page because sometimes, repitition can be kind of 'catchy'. Don't belive me? Ask every chorus of every rock and roll song ever.

Sometimes, a sentence with a passive verb phrase just seems to flow better. Because subject verbs the object, subject verbs the object, and subject verbs the object. Wouldn't it be nice, for a change, to have that object be verbed by the subject?

Also, sometimes you just need to tell it. I understand the importance of showing it, but do I really need to write a three page scene where my character enters his kitchen and makes a tuna sandwich and says "Mmmmmmmmmmmmm....."? Or can I just once in a while say, 'Biff sure did love him some tuna'?

And what about a convenient little information dump once in a while? I'm building a pretty complex universe over here. If I promise to be subtle, and organic, and sneaky, might I please have permission for my narrator to just go ahead and describe the injection procedure for biometric nanotrons that fuse to my character's nervous systems in order to form their neuropathode networks? I promise I could get r' done in less than one page of narrative exposition. And I promise to ease in and out really carefully. Because come on -- it's way better than having Biff say, "As you know Buffy, I've undergone the injection procedure where biometric nanotrons were fused to my nervous system in order to form my neuropathode network..."

Help me out here, blog buddies -- what rules do you like to break and why?

21 comments:

Bryan B. said...

I think what rules you decide to break really determines your voice. Or maybe your voice determines what rules you break...hmm....

Whatever.

I like to start sentences with And. I like me some information dump too. I even like a bit of 'purple' prose now and then - if only to spice things up.

Wait...what am I doing here? If you got 100 pages done, I need to hustle and finish too....

Sharon Mayhew said...

Sentences that start with and drive me NUTS! I do like using bad grammer in dialogue...examples: gonna, goin', 'cause etc......(I love...)

DebraLSchubert said...

Breaking rules is one of my most favorite things to do! And (that was for you, Sharon!) I love me all kinds of "whatever works for the story" thingies. I love this post so much, I'm going to tweet it on Twitter. Hope you don't mind. ;-)

Keri Mikulski said...

Absolutely - break away.. I think the saying is, if you know the writing rules and you break them for craft purposes - it's okay. :)

Mary Paddock said...

Incomplete sentences. Regularly. I use them most often when I'm working from inside the MC's head. However, if I feel that the drama dictates it, I'll use them while setting the scene too.

One time I asked Christopher Moore about info dumping and his take on it was that just bringing the reader up to speed naturally by simply telling them was preferable to info dumping. The trick is to do it seamlessly so that the reader doesn't know just exactly when you went from the narration to the unfolding of the story itself.

Carrie Harris said...

I like to give my characters goofy names like Biff and Buffy. ;)

Kelly said...

Incomplete sentences, too. Like the sentence before this one. And that, too.
Mmmm, Biff has me craving a tuna sandwich now...

Tracey said...

Hey, I'm back. It was great to read one of your posts. It's been a while!

I'm with Bryan on starting sentences with and. And, like Kelly, I like incomplete sentences.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

How cool would it be to be Cormac McCarthy?

Quotation marks? Who needs 'em?

Ray Veen said...

Bryan -- Go. Hustle. And finish.

Sister Mayhew -- Your characters do speak in complete sentences with sound grammar?

Deb -- Tweet me, I guess. I've not been tweeted before that I know of.

Keri -- That's actually a rule I really like. Although I never really thought of it as applying to active verbs and telling instead of showing. These have always seemed sacred and un-compromisable.

Mary -- Yes. That's exactly how I've been trying to pull it off. The problem is, I think I may be doing it a little too often. That's something I'll have to take a closer look at in subsequent revisions.

Carrie -- We should try to get my Biff to fight your Biff. Or better yet, maybe they could do one of the 'dance-off' break-dancing things the 80's street gangs used to do instead of fighting. Because it's really a great way to settle differences.

Kelly -- Biff no share tuna. He sorry.

Tracey -- Hey buddy, I see you updated today. I'll try to check it out when I get home from work.

Paul -- Happy endings? Too cliche'. Throw them out, too.

Sharon Mayhew said...

And I'd like to thank Sharon for adressing me, personally on Ray's blog. :) (See I'm flexible.)

Ray,

I think being English and a teacher makes me write with reasonably good grammar. I have to go back and read out loud to see how a "real" person would speak. I stink at spelling, which explains my grammer....

Anita said...

I agree with the show/tell thing. Sometimes you have to TELL. It cracks me up when I'm reading a book and just know that the author forced a tell into a show.

Jonathon said...

I hear you on the passive verb phrase thing. "This Rising Darkness" (That WIP title is really starting to grow on me) is the first piece of writing I've done, at least seriously, since taking two years of Biblical Greek, and I find myself structuring the sentences they way it would be structured in Greek, which makes for some really interesting sentences, but they are grammatically correct... for the most part, and since I'm using them for sentences that I want to catch the readers attention, it does the job that much more.

Anyway, glad to hear that the revision ball is finished an uphill battle and is rolling down the other side again. Keep it up.

Jonathon/Kaelk

Nisa said...

You know, that adverb thing is a pet peeve of mine. Haha! Adverbs are part of speech, too! Whine, complain, use in moderation and hope nobody really notices... :D (Yeah right!)

Yeah, I think it's great to do these things in moderation. Sometimes the story is just asking for it.

Frank Baron said...

When it comes to writerly rules, I break most of them at some point or another. For instance, I love adverbs (but not licentiously).

My only goal when writing for others is to keep it interesting. And being correct (all the time) is boring as hell.

Angela said...

Fragments. I use em & love em!

Go rule breakers!

Sarah J Clark said...

I get it. I totally get it. Sometimes you just need to give your manuscript the middle finger and walk out of the room.

Sam Downing said...

I know us writers are drilled to believe that adverbs are bad and must be cut. But sometimes they're fun! Really fun! (See?)

HUBBYMAN said...

I WAS ALWAYS TAUGHT "NEVER USE A PREPOSITION TO END A SENTENCE WITH." UHHH.....

abrokenlaptop said...

You wrote and then revised like an absolute wild man. You, sir, inspire me. Rock on!

-Mercedes

Nishant said...

Sentences that start with and drive me NUTS!

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