Publishing, writing

Reading, Riting, and Rithmatic

Robo Rally game
Writing isn’t a game where you have to follow the rules.

I never did understand how that was supposed to be the three R’s. They say you can’t teach spelling – or at least, not in English, the most rule-breaking language on the planet. We are the rebel speakers of the world! We enjoy breaking rules. Spelling, phonetics, grammar… you name it, we’ve left splinters in our wake.

I’ve read several articles on the rules of grammar recently, and had occasion to ponder the importance of typos in a website unrelated to the writing industry. How important is following the rules? If you try to make sure there is never an error, inevitably one will still slip through, so the consensus on the website typo was that it’s no big deal, until combined with some other issue. Then it’s an indicator of an amateurish approach to business.

But is being professional making no mistakes? Well, obviously not. I have seen many instances of traditionally published books with painful typos and errors in them. And in fiction, who cares if you get your facts straight, as long as there is action, plot, and likeable characters, right? But Indie authors must be held to a higher standard. We have to do this for ourselves, because those who disapprove of the way we are breaking the rules are constantly sniping, looking for any handle to tear us down with.

Don’t edit yourself. Find a friend to trade with, if you can’t afford to hire someone.

Do look at covers.  Pore through examples from the genre you are planning to put a book out in, until you have a grasp on what they look like and say to the potential reader. Do this even if you plan to hire someone to make the cover up for you, so you know if it looks right for your book.

Don’t listen to all the rules. Yes, you need to know what the general rules of writing are – so you can break them judiciously. Also, know that every writer has rules, but every writer is unique. What works for someone else might not work for you. And just because someone is published and you aren’t yet, does NOT mean that what they did will magically work for you.

Break past the gatekeepers. Make a run for it, and don’t look back. You can write, just make sure that what you put out is the best it can be, professional, and even then you never know. As a writer, the only guarantee is that you never stop learning your craft, and the business that makes you a pro. But it’s an exciting new world for writers, and it’s time to learn all the rules so you can break them.

0 thoughts on “Reading, Riting, and Rithmatic

  1. I agree on the importance of establishing a standard of professionalism in one’s work. I do think that the absolute fanaticism that many English teachers embrace towards grammar gives too many people the wrong impression regarding writing. Writing isn’t perfect, but always striving to improve it is a worthy goal. I think knowing the rules (of grammar, storytelling, and the rest) is pretty important. Breaking them, when done right, is masterful: Mark Twain’s Huck Finn and Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress both are excellent examples of where breaking the rules worked well.

    1. And for every chant online of ‘follow the rules’ we can all of us find the examples of broken rules that worked out masterfully. It’s a matter of skill, too. Once you have written enough to find your voice, and confidence, you also discover that a broken rule isn’t a big deal.

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