Right now I’m teaching a workshop called No Rules, Just Write! Okay, okay. Those of you who know me can stop laughing now. Yes, we all know I am not known as someone who follows rules (although I do share my toys and play well with others ).
In this workshop we’ve spent two weeks discussing “the rules”. I’ve broken most of them˜even ones I didn’t know existed. In fact, it’s amazing to learn how many unspoken “rules” there are in this business.
For instance, several people reported their editors are eliminating all use of semi-colons because “regular readers don’t understand them”. Who started this war on a hard-working piece of punctuation? Where will it end?
It seems to me that most of these “rules” aren’t designed to increase the quality of literature. Rather, they function to further hamper us neurotic authors as we pursue a publishing career. Especially during that difficult transition from unpublished to published.
Now, this is an extreme example, but one of the “rules” that comes up repeatedly is formatting your manuscript. It seems that monthly on some loop that I’m on, there will be a spirited and prolonged discussion of font and formatting.
There are pages and pages on websites and discussion groups devoted to this. Calculations for using Times New Roman and ones for Courier. Margin and header formatting instructions for every word processing program so you can “get it right”.
Did anyone ever sell a book based on their choice of font?
Has anyone ever lost a sale because of font? Well, maybe if you use something so illegible that an editor couldn’t actually read your work.
Fess up now, how many of you have agonized over font and word count? What other rules do you obsess about?
My question: why aren’t you people writing?
After all, if there were a prescribed set of rules guaranteed to sell your book, we would all be following them, right? So don’t look to the rules to get you published, look to your work.
In my mind, there are only two things we can control in this business: our writing and our attitude.
Of course, publishing professionals are going to want to work with someone who demonstrates a professional attitude. Someone who shows they’ve done their homework, who treats writing as a career rather than a hobby, whose style and presence is polished, making them stand out from the rest.
Is your attitude alone going to guarantee you success? Not unless you are submitting the absolute best quality of work possible. Constantly growing as a writer, looking to ways to improve, listening to editors and others for insights, reading the “great” ones˜authors who resonate with you, who transport you˜and learning from them.
In other words, you need to be writing. It’s not easy, it’s damned hard work. And being willing to look at your work with a critical eye, to sacrifice your “purple prose puppies”, to edit and re-edit and sometimes even start all over again from scratch˜that takes a helluva lot of intestinal fortitude.
So go forth, forget about the “rules” and write!
Disclaimer: no semi-colons were harmed during the production of this blog.
Thanks for reading,
No one is immune to danger…
BLINK OF AN EYE “is a perfect blend of romance and suspense.” –Sandra Brown
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