I’m currently reading a book by a popular NY Times best-selling author and am not surprised to find numerous violations of “the writing rules” — head-hopping, passives, and lots of telling rather than showing.
This doesn’t distract me like it used to.
My first few years as a writer were spent being “indoctrinated” about the writing rules. The standard line was, If you want to increase your chances of publication, you should follow these ______ (fill in approprite number) rules. I’m really rule-oriented, so I clung to these like a good Jewish boy would the Ten Commandments. However, the remainder of my time has been spent unlearning the rules. This doesn’t mean I don’t agree with those rules or don’t believe they’re helpful when applied. I’ve just discovered their relevance is pretty much limited to newbies (those unpublished) and within writers circles.
It’s sort of like a country club. Becoming a “member” of the club has a certain set of requirements (and cost). And once you’re accepted, specific rules of conduct and perks apply. Members have their own hierarchy and moving up in the pecking order is usually sought after. Of course, outside the country club, in the “civilian” world, these things don’t matter. Your membership in the country club does not necessarily benefit you at work, in the supermarket, or the public park. Being a country club member mainly matters to other members.
Writers can have a certain country club mentality. There’s dues you pay to get into the club and once you’re in, garnering more recognition from your peers becomes important. There’s even a temptation to write for other members of the country club. However…
Most readers are not members of the country club.
That’s one of the big discoveries I’ve been making. Following all the writing rules may earn me kudos from other country club members, but they don’t do much for “civilians.” Which sort of brings it all back to who I’m writing for. And how I’m reading. You see, if I read like a writer (i.e., a member of the country club), I tend to struggle with violations of the rules. It’s when I read like a reader, a civilian, a non-country club member, that I most enjoy myself.
So while getting props from my country club brethren is cool, it’s connecting with the average reader that I find most satisfying. The hard part is writing for readers not writers. Especially when you’ve worked so hard to be part of the country club.